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How Large is Large? Preliminary and relative guidelines for interpreting partial correlations in economics

Listed author(s):
  • Hristos Doucouliagos


An essential part of empirical economics research is the identification of the size of an empirical effect. Partial correlations offer a convenient statistically based measure of the strength of an economic relationship. A key question arises in their interpretation: When is a partial correlation large? This paper draws upon the observed distribution of 22,000 partial correlations from a diverse group of economics fields. The median absolute partial correlation from these fields is 0.173, which under Cohen’s (1988) conventional guidelines for zero order correlations is a small to moderate effect. The paper develops new guidelines for key qualitative categories (small, medium and large). According to the new guidelines, partial correlations that are larger than ± 0.33 can be deemed to be large. This is considerably different to Cohen’s guideline of ±0.50 for zero order correlations. Researchers and meta-analysts should exercise caution when applying Cohen’s guidelines to describe the importance of partial correlations in economics.

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Paper provided by Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance in its series Economics Series with number 2011_5.

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Date of creation: 04 Jul 2011
Handle: RePEc:dkn:econwp:eco_2011_5
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