How to Calculate a Phi Coefficient in R

Phi Coefficient (sometimes called a mean square contingency coefficient) is a measure of the association between two binary variables.

For a given 2×2 table for two random variables and y:

The Phi Coefficient can be calculated as:

Φ = (AD-BC) / √(A+B)(C+D)(A+C)(B+D)

Example: Calculating a Phi Coefficient in R

Suppose we want to know whether or not gender is associated with political party preference so we take a simple random sample of 25 voters and survey them on their political party preference.

The following table shows the results of the survey:

Phi Coefficient example calculation

We can use the following code to enter this data into a 2×2 matrix in R:

#create 2x2 table
data = matrix(c(4, 8, 9, 4), nrow = 2)

#view dataset

     [,1] [,2]
[1,]    4    9
[2,]    8    4

We can then use the phi() function from the psych package to calculate the Phi Coefficient between the two variables:

#load psych package

#calculate Phi Coefficient

[1] -0.36

The Phi Coefficient turns out to be -0.36.

Note that the phi function rounds to 2 digits by default, but you can specify the function to round to as many digits as you’d like:

#calculate Phi Coefficient and round to 6 digits
phi(data, digits = 6)

[1] -0.358974

How to Interpret a Phi Coefficient

Similar to a Pearson Correlation Coefficient, a Phi Coefficient takes on values between -1 and 1 where:

  • -1 indicates a perfectly negative relationship between the two variables.
  • 0 indicates no association between the two variables.
  • 1 indicates a perfectly positive relationship between the two variables.

In general, the further away a Phi Coefficient is from zero, the stronger the relationship between the two variables.

In other words, the further away a Phi Coefficient is from zero, the more evidence there is for some type of systematic pattern between the two variables.

Additional Resources

An Introduction to the Phi Coefficient
Phi Coefficient Calculator

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