Pandas: Calculate standard deviation of a Series

Updated: February 18, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Standard deviation is a crucial statistical measure that tells us how much the values of a dataset deviate from the mean, on average. In the world of data analysis with Python, Pandas is a cornerstone library that provides rich functionalities for data manipulation and analysis. One common task in data analytics is calculating the standard deviation of numerical data to understand its variability. This guide will walk you through calculating the standard deviation of a series in Pandas, covering basic to advanced examples.

Getting Started with Pandas

Before we dive into calculating the standard deviation, ensure you have Pandas installed in your environment. You can install Pandas using pip:

$ pip install pandas

Once Pandas is installed, you can start by importing it into your project:

import pandas as pd

Calculating Standard Deviation: Basics

Let’s start with the basics. To create a Pandas series, you can use:

data = pd.Series([2, 4, 6, 8, 10])

And to calculate the standard deviation, apply the .std() method:

std_dev = data.std()



This value tells us that, on average, the data points deviate from the mean by approximately 2.83.

Understanding the Details

Pandas’ .std() function computes the standard deviation using a formula that divides by N-1 instead of N, where N is the number of observations. This is known as Bessel’s correction, a method used to provide an unbiased estimate when dealing with a sample. If you want to calculate the population standard deviation (dividing by N), you can set the ddof parameter to 0:

std_dev_population = data.std(ddof=0)



Dealing with Missing Data

Handling missing data is a common issue in data analysis. Pandas naturally excludes NaN values when calculating the standard deviation, but it’s always good to be aware of this default behavior. Consider a series with missing data:

import numpy as np

data_with_nans = pd.Series([2, np.nan, 6, 8, 10])
std_dev_with_nans = data_with_nans.std()



Applying on DataFrames

Beyond Series, you can also calculate the standard deviation for each column in a DataFrame. Let’s work with a small dataset:

df = pd.DataFrame({'A': [1, 2, 3, 4, 5],
                   'B': [5, 4, 3, 2, 1],
                   'C': [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]})
std_dev_df = df.std()

Shows the standard deviation for each column separately.

More Complex Scenarios

In more complex datasets, you might encounter the need for grouped standard deviation calculations. You can do this by grouping the data using the .groupby() method and then applying the .std() method:

df['Group'] = ['X', 'X', 'Y', 'Y', 'Z']

std_dev_grouped = df.groupby('Group').std()

This calculation is crucial for understanding the variability within subsets of the dataset.


While standard deviation is a straightforward statistical calculation, its application in Pandas reveals a depth of functionality for data analysis tasks. From handling basic series to complex grouped data scenarios, understanding how to calculate the standard deviation equips you with valuable insight into your dataset’s variability. Remember, the way you handle missing data and choose between sample or population calculations can significantly impact your analysis outcomes.