Exploring Pandas qcut() function (4 examples)

Updated: February 21, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


The Python library Pandas is a powerful tool for data manipulation and analysis. Among its many functions, qcut() stands out for its ability to discretize variables into equal-sized bins. This tutorial will explore the qcut() function in detail, providing step-by-step examples ranging from basic to advanced.

The Use of qcut()

The qcut() function in Pandas is designed to discretize a continuous variable into q quantiles. Quantiles are points in a distribution that partition it into equal-sized, contiguous intervals. The qcut() function can be particularly useful for tasks such as data segmentation, discretization, or when conducting statistical analysis that requires data splitting into quantiles.

Basic Usage

Let’s start with a simple example using a Series of random numbers:

import numpy as np
import pandas as pd

data = np.random.randn(1000)
series = pd.Series(data)
categories = pd.qcut(series, 4)

This code will split the Series into four quantiles and then count the number of observations within each bin. The output will show something similar to:

(-3.049, -0.685]    250
(-0.685, -0.003]    250
(-0.003, 0.678]     250
(0.678, 3.928]      250

Specifying Custom Quantiles

Next, we proceed to specify custom quantiles, aiming for a more tailored discretization:

categories_custom = pd.qcut(series, [0, 0.1, 0.5, 0.9, 1])

This approach yields bins that don’t necessarily contain equal numbers of observations but are divided according to specified percentiles. For example, the output might demonstrate a distribution like:

(-3.049, -1.281]    100
(-1.281, -0.003]    400
(-0.003, 1.287]     400
(1.287, 3.928]      100

Labelling Bins

You can also label the bins for easier interpretation. This is especially useful for categorical analysis:

labels = ['1st Quartile', '2nd Quartile', '3rd Quartile', '4th Quartile']
categories_labeled = pd.qcut(series, 4, labels=labels)

The output will now present the observations categorized under named quartiles, such as:

0    3rd Quartile
1    1st Quartile
2    2nd Quartile
3    4th Quartile
4    3rd Quartile

Using qcut() with DataFrames

Let’s explore an advanced use of qcut() by applying it to a DataFrame to segment a particular column:

df = pd.DataFrame({'data': np.random.randn(1000)})
df['quantile'] = pd.qcut(df['data'], 4, labels=labels)

Now, each row in the DataFrame is associated with a quantile label, delineating the discretized category of its value in the ‘data’ column. The output would typically include:

       data      quantile
0 -0.729    1st Quartile
1  0.455    3rd Quartile
2 -1.502    1st Quartile
3  1.152    4th Quartile
4  0.926    4th Quartile


The qcut() function in Pandas is a versatile tool for discretizing continuous data into quantiles. Through the examples presented, we’ve seen how it can be applied to construct both equally-sized and custom bins, assign labels for intuitive interpretation, and be utilized within DataFrames for segmenting columns. Mastering qcut() can significantly enhance your data preprocessing and analysis endeavors.