Pandas DataFrame.std() method: Explained with examples

Updated: February 20, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Pandas is a powerful Python library offering versatile data manipulation and analysis features, among which the std() method from DataFrame objects is particularly useful for statistical analysis. This method computes the standard deviation of the DataFrame’s numeric columns, providing insights into the dispersion or spread of a dataset. This tutorial offers a comprehensive guide to using the std() method, complemented by practical examples to enhance your data analysis skills.

Understanding Standard Deviation

Before diving into the pandas std() method, it’s essential to understand the concept of standard deviation. In statistics, standard deviation measures the amount of variability or spread in a set of data. A low standard deviation indicates the data points are closely clustered around the mean (average), whereas a high standard deviation suggests a wider range of values. This metric is crucial for identifying outliers, understanding data variability, and makinginformed decisions based on data distributions.

Basic Usage of std() Method

To start, let’s explore the basic usage of the std() method with a simple DataFrame consisting of numeric data:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Creating a DataFrame
data = {
 'Age': [25, 30, 35, 40, 45],
 'Salary': [50000, 55000, 60000, 65000, 70000]
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Computing standard deviation
std_values = df.std()


Age          7.905694
Salary    7905.694150
dtype: float64

This code computes the standard deviation for the ‘Age’ and ‘Salary’ columns, giving the analyst a quick insight into the spread of these variables across the dataset. The output will show the standard deviation values for both columns.

Adjusting the Degree of Freedom (DDOF)

The default behavior of the std() method calculates the sample standard deviation, which sets the degrees of freedom (ddof) to 1. However, you can adjust this to compute the population standard deviation by setting ddof to 0:

import pandas as pd

# Creating a DataFrame
data = {"Age": [25, 30, 35, 40, 45], "Salary": [50000, 55000, 60000, 65000, 70000]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

std_population = df.std(ddof=0)


Age          7.071068
Salary    7071.067812
dtype: float64

This minor change alters how the standard deviation is calculated, potentially leading to a smaller value when considering the entire population as opposed to a sample.

Working with Groups

Real-world data is often more complex, involving multiple groups or categories. The std() method can be especially informative when applied to grouped data. Let’s consider a dataset categorizing employees by their department:

import pandas as pd

# Creating a more complex DataFrame
data = {
 'Department': ['HR', 'Tech', 'Finance', 'Marketing'],
 'Staff_Count': [10, 25, 15, 20],
 'Average_Salary': [40000, 60000, 55000, 45000]
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Grouping by 'Department' and computing standard deviation
std_by_dept = df.groupby('Department').std()


            Staff_Count  Average_Salary
Finance             NaN             NaN
HR                  NaN             NaN
Marketing           NaN             NaN
Tech                NaN             NaN

As this DataFrame doesn’t provide multiple numeric values per group for computation, this particular code example won’t yield meaningful standard deviation outputs. It, however, serves to illustrate how one could approach grouped data analysis.

Handling Missing Values

In datasets with missing values, the std() method automatically excludes these from its computation. For a more granular control or to include missing values in some form, pandas offers flexibility:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# DataFrame with missing values
data = {
 'Scores': [90, np.nan, 85, 100, 95],
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Computing standard deviation, ignoring NaN values
std_scores = df['Scores'].std()



This ensures that your standard deviation calculation is not skewed by the missing values, though it decreases the sample size.

Advanced Techniques

For more complex analyses, you might want to apply the std() method over a rolling window or on exponentially weighted data to observe standard deviation trends over time or to smooth out volatility. Let’s briefly touch on these advanced uses:

import pandas as pd

# Assuming a DataFrame 'df' with datetime index and a 'Price' column

# Rolling standard deviation over a 7-day window
rolling_std = df['Price'].rolling(window=7).std()

# Exponentially weighted standard deviation
exp_weighted_std = df['Price'].ewm(span=7).std()

These methods are particularly useful in financial data analysis, where understanding volatility over time is crucial.


This tutorial showcased the versatility of the pandas std() method across various scenarios, from basic usage to more sophisticated data analysis techniques. Adequately understanding and applying this function can significantly enhance your insights into data variability and spread, enabling more informed decision-making based on your analyses.