# Partial correlation

A popular radio talk show host has just received the latest government study on public health care funding and has uncovered a startling fact: As health care funding increases, disease rates also increase! Cities that spend more actually seem to be worse off than cities that spend less. Is health care funding bad for your health? The radio talk show host has the evidence that appears to prove that claim: The data in the government report yield a high, positive correlation between health care funding and disease rates -- which seems to indicate that people would be much healthier if the government simply stopped putting money into health care programs. But is this really true? It certainly isn't likely that there's a causal relationship between health care funding and disease rates. Assuming the numbers are correct, are there other factors that might create the appearance of a relationship where none actually exists? This example uses the data file health_funding.sav To obtain partial correlations: ► From the menus choose: Analyze > Correlate > Partial Select Health care funding... and Reported disease rate... as the variables

In this example, the Partial Correlations table shows both the zero-order correlations(correlations without any control variables) of all three variables and the partial correlation of the first two variables controlling for the effects of theThe zero-order correlation between health care funding and disease rates is, indeed, both fairly high (0.737) and statistically significant(p < 0.001). third variable. The partial correlation controlling for the rate of visits to health care providers, however, is neglibile (0.013)and not statistically significant (p = 0.928.) One interpretation of this finding is that the observed positive "relationship" between health care funding and disease rates is due to underlying relationships between each of those variables and the rate of visits to health care providers: Disease rates only appear to increase as health care funding increases because more people have access to health care providers when funding increases, and doctors and hospitals consequently report more occurrences of diseases since more sick people come to see them. Going back to the zero-order correlations, you can see that both health care funding rates and reported disease rates are highly positively correlated with the control variable, rate of visits to health care providers. Removing the effects of this variable reduces the correlation between the other two variables to almost zero. It's even possible that controlling for the effects of some other relevant variables might actually reveal an underlying negative relationship between health care funding and disease rates. The Partial Correlations procedure is only appropriate for scale variables. • If you have categorical (nominal or ordinal)data, use the Crosstabs procedure. Layer variables in Crosstabs are similar to control variables in Partial Correlations.

try the Linear Regression procedure .• If you want to model the value of a scale variable based on its linear relationship to other variables.