Spearman's rank correlation coefficient
In statistics, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient or Spearman's rho, named after Charles Spearman and often denoted by the Greek letter (rho) or as , is a nonparametric measure of statistical dependence between two variables. It assesses how well the relationship between two variables can be described using a monotonic function. If there are no repeated data values, a perfect Spearman correlation of +1 or −1 occurs when each of the variables is a perfect monotone function of the other.
Definition and calculation 
The Spearman correlation coefficient is defined as the Pearson correlation coefficient between the ranked variables. For a sample of size n, the n raw scores are converted to ranks , and ρ is computed from these:
Identical values (rank ties or value duplicates) are assigned a rank equal to the average of their positions in the ascending order of the values. In the table below, notice how the rank of values that are the same is the mean of what their ranks would otherwise be:
|Variable||Position in the ascending order||Rank|
In applications where duplicate values (ties) are known to be absent, a simpler procedure can be used to calculate ρ. Differences between the ranks of each observation on the two variables are calculated, and ρ is given by:
Note that this latter method should not be used in cases where the data set is truncated; that is, when the Spearman correlation coefficient is desired for the top X records (whether by pre-change rank or post-change rank, or both), the user should use the Pearson correlation coefficient formula given above.
Related quantities 
There are several other numerical measures that quantify the extent of statistical dependence between pairs of observations. The most common of these is the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, which is a similar correlation method to Spearman's rank, that measures the “linear” relationships between the raw numbers rather than between their ranks.
An alternative name for the Spearman rank correlation is the “grade correlation”; in this, the “rank” of an observation is replaced by the “grade”. In continuous distributions, the grade of an observation is, by convention, always one half less than the rank, and hence the grade and rank correlations are the same in this case. More generally, the “grade” of an observation is proportional to an estimate of the fraction of a population less than a given value, with the half-observation adjustment at observed values. Thus this corresponds to one possible treatment of tied ranks. While unusual, the term “grade correlation” is still in use.
The sign of the Spearman correlation indicates the direction of association between X (the independent variable) and Y (the dependent variable). If Y tends to increase when X increases, the Spearman correlation coefficient is positive. If Y tends to decrease when X increases, the Spearman correlation coefficient is negative. A Spearman correlation of zero indicates that there is no tendency for Y to either increase or decrease when X increases. The Spearman correlation increases in magnitude as X and Y become closer to being perfect monotone functions of each other. When X and Y are perfectly monotonically related, the Spearman correlation coefficient becomes 1. A perfect monotone increasing relationship implies that for any two pairs of data values Xi, Yi and Xj, Yj, that Xi − Xj and Yi − Yj always have the same sign. A perfect monotone decreasing relationship implies that these differences always have opposite signs.
The Spearman correlation coefficient is often described as being "nonparametric". This can have two meanings. First, the fact that a perfect Spearman correlation results when X and Y are related by any monotonic function can be contrasted with the Pearson correlation, which only gives a perfect value when X and Y are related by a linear function. The other sense in which the Spearman correlation is nonparametric in that its exact sampling distribution can be obtained without requiring knowledge (i.e., knowing the parameters) of the joint probability distribution of X and Y.
|IQ,||Hours of TV per week,|
First, we must find the value of the term . To do so we use the following steps, reflected in the table below.
- Sort the data by the first column (). Create a new column and assign it the ranked values 1,2,3,...n.
- Next, sort the data by the second column (). Create a fourth column and similarly assign it the ranked values 1,2,3,...n.
- Create a fifth column to hold the differences between the two rank columns ( and ).
- Create one final column to hold the value of column squared.
|IQ,||Hours of TV per week,||rank||rank|
With found, we can add them to find . The value of n is 10. So these values can now be substituted back into the equation,
This low value shows that the correlation between IQ and hours spent watching TV is very low. In the case of ties in the original values, this formula should not be used. Instead, the Pearson correlation coefficient should be calculated on the ranks (where ties are given ranks, as described above).
Determining significance 
One approach to testing whether an observed value of ρ is significantly different from zero (r will always maintain −1 ≤ r ≤ 1) is to calculate the probability that it would be greater than or equal to the observed r, given the null hypothesis, by using a permutation test. An advantage of this approach is that it automatically takes into account the number of tied data values there are in the sample, and the way they are treated in computing the rank correlation.
Another approach parallels the use of the Fisher transformation in the case of the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. That is, confidence intervals and hypothesis tests relating to the population value ρ can be carried out using the Fisher transformation:
If F(r) is the Fisher transformation of r, the sample Spearman rank correlation coefficient, and n is the sample size, then
One can also test for significance using
A generalization of the Spearman coefficient is useful in the situation where there are three or more conditions, a number of subjects are all observed in each of them, and it is predicted that the observations will have a particular order. For example, a number of subjects might each be given three trials at the same task, and it is predicted that performance will improve from trial to trial. A test of the significance of the trend between conditions in this situation was developed by E. B. Page and is usually referred to as Page's trend test for ordered alternatives.
Correspondence analysis based on Spearman's rho 
See also 
- Kendall tau rank correlation coefficient
- Chebyshev's sum inequality, rearrangement inequality (These two articles may shed light on the mathematical properties of Spearman's ρ.)
- Jmp For Basic Univariate And Multivariate Statistics: A Step-by-step Guide. Ann Lehman, p.123
- Myers, Jerome L.; Well, Arnold D. (2003), Research Design and Statistical Analysis (2nd ed.), Lawrence Erlbaum, p. 508, ISBN 0-8058-4037-0
- Maritz. J.S. (1981) Distribution-Free Statistical Methods, Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-412-15940-6. (page 217)
- Yule, G. U. and Kendall, M. G. (1950), “An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics”, 14th Edition (5th Impression 1968). Charles Griffin & Co. page 268
- Piantadosi, J.; Howlett, P.; Boland, J. (2007) “Matching the grade correlation coefficient using a copula with maximum disorder”, Journal of Industrial and Management Optimization, 3 (2), 305–312
- Choi, S.C. (1977) Test of equality of dependent correlations. Biometrika, 64 (3), pp. 645–647
- Fieller, E.C.; Hartley, H.O.; Pearson, E.S. (1957) Tests for rank correlation coefficients. I. Biometrika 44, pp. 470–481
- Press, Vettering, Teukolsky, and Flannery (1992) Numerical Recipes in C: The Art of Scientific Computing, 2nd Edition, page 640
- Kendall, M.G., Stuart, A. (1973) The Advanced Theory of Statistics, Volume 2: Inference and Relationship, Griffin. ISBN 0-85264-215-6 (Sections 31.19, 31.21)
- Page, E. B. (1963). "Ordered hypotheses for multiple treatments: A significance test for linear ranks". Journal of the American Statistical Association 58 (301): 216–230. doi:10.2307/2282965.
- Kowalczyk, T.; Pleszczyńska E. , Ruland F. (eds.) (2004). Grade Models and Methods for Data Analysis with Applications for the Analysis of Data Populations. Studies in Fuzziness and Soft Computing vol. 151. Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-540-21120-4.
Further reading 
- Corder GW, Foreman DI (2009). Nonparametric Statistics for Non-Statisticians: A Step-by-Step Approach. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-4546-19. OCLC 276228975.
- Spearman C (1904). "The proof and measurement of association between two things". Amer. J. Psychol. 15: 72–101.
- Kendall MG (1970). Rank correlation methods (4th ed.). London: Griffin. ISBN 978-0-852-6419-96. OCLC 136868.
- Hollander M, Wolfe DA (1973). Nonparametric statistical methods. New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-40635-8. OCLC 520735.
- Caruso JC, Cliff N (1997). "Empirical size, coverage, and power of confidence intervals for Spearman's Rho". Ed. and Psy. Meas. 57: 637–654.
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Spearman's rank correlation coefficient|
- "Understanding Correlation vs. Copulas in Excel" by Eric Torkia, Technology Partnerz 2011
- Table of critical values of ρ for significance with small samples
- A calculator that shows the working out for Spearman's correlation
- Spearman's rank online calculator
- Chapter 3 part 1 shows the formula to be used when there are ties
- Spearman's rank correlation: Simple notes for students with an example of usage by biologists and a spreadsheet for Microsoft Excel for calculating it (a part of materials for a Research Methods in Biology course).