Adventures in Machine Learning

Unleashing the Power of Pandas crosstab() for Data Analysis

Pandas crosstab()

Pandas crosstab() is a powerful function that is widely used for data analysis. The Pandas package is a Python-based library used for data manipulation and analysis.

It provides a wide range of data structures like Series and DataFrame for handling and manipulating data. Here’s what you need to know about the Pandas crosstab() function.

1) Generating cross-tabulated data frames

Cross-tabulation is the process of summarizing categorical data by counting the number of occurrences of each possible combination of values. Pandas crosstab() function allows you to create a cross-tabulated data frame from two or more variables.

The function is very similar to the pivot_table() function. The main difference between the two functions is that the crosstab() function is designed to work with categorical data, whereas pivot_table() is suitable for both categorical and numerical data.

2) The frequency table generation and inclusion of categorical data

The crosstab() function is particularly useful in generating frequency tables for categorical data. A frequency table is a tabulation of the counts or frequency of each unique value that occurs in a dataset.

The crosstab() function allows you to pass categorical data as input, which will create the frequency table of each unique value combination. This function greatly simplifies the process of obtaining a frequency table, which is essential in data analysis.

3) Handling empty DataFrame in the absence of row or column names

The crosstab() function allows you to handle empty DataFrame in the absence of row or column names. It provides a solution when you have missing data or empty cells in your DataFrame.

You can specify the fill_value parameter in the function call to fill the missing values with a specified value. This feature is particularly helpful when you are dealing with huge datasets and finding missing information.


The Pandas crosstab() function is an essential tool for data analysis. It allows the user to generate frequency tables, cross-tabulated data frames, and handle empty DataFrames in the absence of row or column names.

The crosstab() function is very efficient, reliable and customizable. It is a perfect package for data manipulation, sorting, cleaning, filtering, and analysis.

People who work with big data sets on a regular basis will undoubtedly find this function to be an invaluable addition to their toolkit.

3) Syntax of Pandas crosstab()

Using the Pandas crosstab() function involves knowing its basic syntax and how to pass parameters. The syntax follows the pattern below:

pandas.crosstab(index, columns, values=None, rownames=None, colnames=None, aggfunc=None, margins=False, margins_name='All', dropna=True, normalize=False)

Parameters and their usage in crosstab()

  • index: Represents the categorical variable on the rows.
  • columns: Represents the categorical variable on the columns.
  • values: Represents the list of values to count or aggregate. This value would be optional and depends on the presence of the aggregation function (aggfunc).
  • In case values is not provided, it defaults to counting the frequency of the occurrences.
  • rownames: Represents the row identifier.
  • colnames: Represents the column identifier.
  • aggfunc: Represents the aggregation function to use on the values.
  • By default, the count aggregator is used if the values parameter is specified, else it counts the frequency of occurrences of each combination in the dataset.
  • margins: Represents a Boolean value indicating whether or not to insert totals for the rows and columns.
  • margins_name: Specifies the name to use for the totals column(s) or row(s).
  • dropna: This represents an optional boolean value indicating whether or not to exclude null values.
  • normalize: This optional parameter is set to a Boolean value that indicates whether the resulting values should be normalized or not. If True, they will be normalized to between 0 and 1.

4) Examples of implementing Pandas crosstab()

Example 1: Passing only required arguments

To demonstrate using only the required parameters, consider the following example. Assume that we are given a dataset containing information about different dog breeds and their heights, weights, and personality traits.

We can use the crosstab() function to obtain a pandas DataFrame with a table of the combinations counts. Let’s say we want to compare the personality traits of each breed as a percentage of the total samples.

We can pass the breed column as the index parameter, and the personality column as the columns parameter. We can also set the margins parameter to True to get the total count of each personality trait and each breed.

Example code:

import pandas as pd
dataset = pd.read_csv('dogs.csv')
table = pd.crosstab(index=dataset['Breed'], columns=dataset['Personality'], margins=True, normalize='index')


Personality  Aggressive  Friendly  Quiet  Shy  All
Doberman              8         2      6    4   20
Labrador              2         8      4    6   20
Poodle                3         6      7    4   20
All                  13        16     17   14   60

From the output, we can see that the crosstab function computed the count of dogs in each breed that have each of the four personality traits, as well as the total frequency of personality traits across all breeds.

Example 2: Passing other arguments

Now, let’s take a look at an example using other parameters such as values and aggfunc.

We will be using a dataset containing information about employees, including their job titles, salaries, and department.

Example code:

import pandas as pd
dataset = pd.read_csv('employees.csv')
table = pd.crosstab(index=dataset['Job Title'], columns=dataset['Department'], values=dataset['Salary'], aggfunc='mean')


Department                             HR         IT     Sales
Job Title                                                     
Analyst                       62000.000000  85000.00       NaN
Associate                    105500.000000  74000.00       NaN
Manager                      170250.000000  70000.00  180000.0
Sales Representative                    NaN  98000.00  175000.0

In this example, we can see that we passed values to the parameter as the Salary column, and aggfunc specified the average salary for each Job Title in each department.

Usage of various parameters like values, aggfunc, rownames, colnames, and margins

The crosstab() function’s parameters help encapsulate the desired data manipulation and summarization to fit the purpose of the analysis.

  • Using values and aggfunc: With these parameters, you specify a column and the type of function you want to be performed on the values. For instance, you can specify sum to obtain the total of the values in the specified column or mean to calculate the average of the values in the column.
  • Using rownames and colnames: These parameters provide the ability to specify custom names for the indexes of rows and columns. It makes the resultant table easier to read and identify.
  • Using margins: Set to True by default, this parameter returns totals at the last row, columns, and the last cell. It quantifies all the rows and columns of the resultant DataFrame and summarizes them in their respective total locations.
  • It aids in top-level analysis, finding the most frequently occurring factors in the analyzed dataset.


In conclusion, the crosstab() function is a powerful tool for data analysis, providing flexibility and customization in the analysis process. Understanding the function’s syntax and different parameters will enable you to manipulate and clean data and summarize them in a tabular format.

You can create complex tables with a few lines of code, making your data analysis tasks a lot more straightforward and efficient.

5) Summary

Pandas is one of the best Python libraries for data analysis tasks. It enables easy data manipulation, cleaning, and organization through data structures like Series and DataFrames.

The Pandas package has general functions that can apply to any form of data, and it also has specialized functions. The crosstab() function is one such specialized function that is particularly useful for creating cross-tabulated data frames.

Overview of Pandas general functions and crosstab()

Pandas is known for having some powerful functions for data manipulation and analysis. These functions are commonly used in data analysis tasks and they include the following:

  • Filtering: This is the process of selecting a subset of the data based on specified conditions or criteria.
  • Sorting: This is the process of arranging items in a data set in ascending or descending order.
  • Groupby: This is the process of arranging data into groups based on a single or multiple categories.
  • Merging: This is the process of combining two or more data sets based on specified columns or indices.
  • Pivot tables: This is an easy way to summarize large amounts of data by grouping and aggregating the information.
  • Crosstab: This function is used to create a cross-tabulation table between two or more variables.

Default frequency generation and customization options with crosstab()

The crosstab() function provides an easy way to generate frequency tables between categorical data. Frequency tables are summary tables that show the frequency distribution of one or more variables in a dataset.

By default, crosstab() generates a frequency table of the counts of occurrences of the unique values in each variable that is passed. However, the output format is customizable.

For instance, you can compute and display relative frequencies, which reflect the proportion of each factor within each grouping. To do this, use the normalize parameter, which defaults to False.

The normalize parameter, when set to True, will add an extra column in the table showing the relative proportion of every factor by dividing by the weight of the corresponding category.

You can also use other parameters to modify the output such as rownames, colnames, and values.

These parameters offer customization options to make the table more readable or more informative.

Another parameter is the aggfunc, which can be modified to provide a diverse range of summary statistics such as the mean, standard deviation, and various percentiles.

It is set to count by default.

Example code:

import pandas as pd
dataset = pd.read_csv('flowers.csv')

# compute frequency table on the basis of species and petal width
table = pd.crosstab(index=dataset['species'], columns=dataset['petal_width'], margins=True, margins_name='Total')

# compute frequency table on the basis of species, petal width and petal length
table = pd.crosstab(index=dataset['species'], columns=[dataset['petal_width'], dataset['petal_length']], margins=True, margins_name='Total')

The first example calculates the frequency table of species in relation to petal width, including totals. The second example considers species, petal width, and petal length, showing frequency distributions for all the input variables.


The Pandas crosstab() function is a powerful tool for data analysis. It simplifies the process of generating a frequency table and creating cross-tabulated data frames.

It is highly customizable, providing users with the flexibility to manipulate and summarize data according to their specific requirements. With Pandas, you don’t have to worry about complex data manipulation tasks; you simply load the data and apply the necessary functions such as crosstab() to get the desired summary tables.

Pandas is an essential tool for anybody who is involved in handling a vast amount of data. In summary, the Pandas crosstab() function is a crucial tool for data analysis and a specialized function that provides flexibility and customization in manipulating data into easy-to-read cross-tabulated tables.

Understanding the function’s syntax and various parameters will help users summarize and quickly draw insights from complex datasets customized for their specific requirements. It is part of a suite of powerful Pandas functions that allow for filtering, sorting, grouping, merging, pivot tables, and more.

By leveraging these tools, data analysis tasks become more manageable, and results are easily accessible for further analysis. Pandas is an indispensable package for anyone involved in handling vast amounts of data, offering a full range of built-in and customizable tools for statistical analysis.

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