Is it correct to measure the correlation coefficient between a continuous variable and a discrete variable? I visualized it and there is definitely no linear relationship the way I see it that is why I decided that it was not possible to calculate the correlation coefficient for it. These are the two variables I am working with show on a marginal graph. enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ What is x in your case ? $\endgroup$
    – CaroZ
    Dec 5, 2023 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Y-area of apartment x-Number of bedrooms-discrete (1,2,3,4,5) $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2023 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ By applying the formula you can demonstrate it is possible to compute a correlation coefficient: all you need are pairs of numbers. What it means depends on what the values of $x$ and $y$ represent. And whether it's appropriate to do the calculation at all depends on your analytical objectives. Consider, then, editing your question to include such information. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ Such a correlation would indicate something about stochastic ordering over the pairs, but further consideration is needed. $\endgroup$
    – Galen
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ This might be a stupid question, but why wouldn't you consider the number of bedrooms as continuous ? $\endgroup$
    – CaroZ
    Dec 5, 2023 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Following on from whuber's answer, perhaps your question should be - can I make reliable inference about the correlation coefficient (for example a p-value associated with a test for r = 0)? I guess that you are worried that the data will not be bivariate-Normal because "bedrooms" is discrete, but in practice most variables used in correlation analysis will be ordered discrete (even your "area of apartment" is likely recorded to the nearest m^2) the issue is the number of levels. 5 levels, with most of the data concentrated in one of them, could be rather 'chunky'. If you are worried about this then you could use a non-parametric correlation coefficient or use a permutation test for r = 0. However, given that a bedroom will have non-zero floor area, there is no question that there will be a significant correlation - as long as the sample size is big enough. What would be more interesting is whether your correlation is different from, e.g. those in another city/country (could use bootstrapping to estimate a confidence interval for r) or whether the relationship is non-linear. Perhaps you should embrace the discrete nature of bedrooms and analyze this as an ANOVA with ordered factor. With that you can test for linear or polynomial effects.


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