Understanding the Pandas DataFrame std() Method

When working with data in Python, Pandas is an indispensable library that provides numerous functionalities for data manipulation and analysis. One of the functions that Pandas offers for statistical analysis is the std() method, applied to a DataFrame. This method calculates the standard deviation of the DataFrame's elements.

What is Standard Deviation?

link to this section

Before diving into the technicalities of the std() method, it's essential to understand what standard deviation is. In statistics, the standard deviation is a measure of the amount of variation or dispersion of a set of values. A low standard deviation indicates that the values tend to be close to the mean of the set, while a high standard deviation indicates that the values are spread out over a wider range.

Using the std() Method in Pandas

link to this section

The std() method in Pandas calculates the standard deviation of the elements along a specified axis (rows or columns).


DataFrame.std(axis=None, skipna=None, level=None, ddof=1, numeric_only=None, **kwargs) 
  • axis : {0 or ‘index’, 1 or ‘columns’}, default 0. If 0 or ‘index’, compute the standard deviation in each column. If 1 or ‘columns’, compute the standard deviation in each row.
  • skipna : Exclude NA/null values. If an entire row/column is NA, the result will be NA.
  • level : If the axis is a MultiIndex (hierarchical), count along a particular level, collapsing into a scalar.
  • ddof : Delta Degrees of Freedom. The divisor used in calculations is N - ddof, where N represents the number of elements. By default ddof is 1.
  • numeric_only : Include only float, int, boolean columns. If None, will attempt to use everything, then use only numeric data.
  • **kwargs : Additional keyword arguments to be passed to the function.

Calculating Standard Deviation of a DataFrame

Let’s consider a simple example to understand how the std() method works.

import pandas as pd 
# Creating a sample DataFrame 
data = {'Math': [88, 89, 92, 85, 90], 'English': [78, 85, 80, 90, 85], 'History': [85, 80, 89, 92, 88]} 

df = pd.DataFrame(data) 

# Calculating standard deviation for each subject 
std_dev = df.std() 

Handling Missing Values

If there are missing values in your DataFrame, the std() method will skip them by default. However, you can control this behavior using the skipna parameter.

# Adding a row with a missing value 
df.loc[5] = [92, None, 89] 

# Calculating standard deviation, skipping missing values 
std_dev_skipna = df.std(skipna=True) 

# Calculating standard deviation, including missing values 
std_dev_no_skipna = df.std(skipna=False) 

Specifying the Degrees of Freedom

The ddof parameter allows you to specify the degrees of freedom. The standard deviation is calculated as the square root of the variance, and the variance is calculated with a denominator of (N - ddof), where N is the number of elements. By default, Pandas sets ddof to 1, which is the formula for sample standard deviation.

# Calculating standard deviation with different degrees of freedom 
std_dev_ddof_0 = df.std(ddof=0) 

Selecting Data Types

The numeric_only parameter allows you to specify whether to include only numeric data types in the calculations.

# Calculating standard deviation for numeric data types only 
std_dev_numeric_only = df.std(numeric_only=True) 


link to this section

The std() method in Pandas is a powerful tool for statistical analysis, providing insights into the spread and variability of your data. Understanding how to effectively use this function, along with its parameters, can significantly enhance your data analysis capabilities in Python.