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How Strong is an Association? Understanding Measures of Association

05/06/2024 | By: FDS


Measures of association are used in statistics to quantify the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables. Understanding these measures is crucial for interpreting the significance and impact of relationships in data analysis. This article explores the common measures of association and how to interpret their strength.

Common Measures of Association

Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (r)

Pearson's correlation coefficient measures the linear relationship between two continuous variables. The value of r ranges from -1 to 1, where:

  • r = 1 indicates a perfect positive linear relationship
  • r = -1 indicates a perfect negative linear relationship
  • r = 0 indicates no linear relationship

Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient (ρ)

Spearman's rank correlation coefficient assesses the monotonic relationship between two variables. It is suitable for both continuous and ordinal variables and does not require a linear relationship. The value of ρ also ranges from -1 to 1.

Chi-Square Test for Independence (χ²)

The chi-square test for independence measures the association between two categorical variables. The test provides a p-value, where a low p-value indicates a significant association between the variables.

Interpreting the Strength of Association

The strength of association can be interpreted based on the magnitude of the correlation coefficient or the significance level from statistical tests:

  • Small association: |r| < 0.3
  • Medium association: 0.3 ≤ |r| < 0.5
  • Large association: |r| ≥ 0.5

For Spearman's ρ and chi-square test, similar guidelines can be applied to interpret the strength of association.


Understanding the strength of association is essential for drawing meaningful conclusions from statistical analyses. By using appropriate measures of association and interpreting their strength correctly, researchers can gain valuable insights into the relationships between variables and make informed decisions based on their data.

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