On the correlation of a naturally and an artificially dichotomized variable

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Abstract

A method is suggested for estimating the correlation of a naturally (X) and an artificially (Y) dichotomized variable. It is assumed that a normal random variable (L) underlies the artificially dichotomized variable. The proposed correlation coefficient recovers the product moment correlation coefficient between X and L from a fourfold table of X and Y. The suggested correlation coefficient ν is contrasted with the phi correlation and the biserial η. The biserial η was proposed by Karl Pearson and is conceptually related to the new correlation coefficient. However, in addition, Pearson's biserial η invokes the assumption that the marginal distribution of L is normal, which contradicts its basic assumptions and thus does not recover the true correlation of L and X. Finally, an approximation is provided to simplify the calculation of ν and its standard error.

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