Pandas: Find the cumulative sum/product of a Series

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


Pandas, a cornerstone in Python data manipulation libraries, offers extensive capabilities to work with data structures and perform analyses with ease. A common need in data analysis is the computation of cumulative sums or products across a dataset, which can reveal trends, patterns, or underlying structures within the data. This tutorial explores how to calculate cumulative sums and products in Series, one of pandas’ primary data structures, with progressively advanced examples.

Getting Started

A Series is a one-dimensional array capable of holding any data type, indexed by a sequence of labels. Before diving into cumulative calculations, ensure pandas is installed in your environment:

pip install pandas

And then import pandas:

import pandas as pd

For our purposes, let’s create a simple Series:

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

This Series contains five numerical elements we’ll use to demonstrate cumulative operations.

Cumulative Sum in Pandas Series

The cumsum() method calculates the cumulative sum of a Series. It’s a straightforward method that adds up the values in sequence. For our example Series:

cum_sum = data.cumsum()


0     2
1     6
2    12
3    20
4    30
dtype: int64

Each element in the output represents the sum of all preceding elements in the input Series, inclusive. This method is particularly useful for analyzing progressive totals across datasets.

Cumulative Product in Pandas Series

Similarly, the cumprod() method calculates the cumulative product of the Serie’s elements. Applying it to our initial data:

cum_prod = data.cumprod()


0        2
1        8
2       48
3      384
4     3840
dtype: int64

Each entry in the resulting Series is the product of all preceding elements, showcasing the compound effect of multiplication through the Series.

Handling Missing Values

In real-world data, missing values are common and can interfere with cumulative operations. Pandas handles these gracefully, as missing values (`NaN`) are treated as identity elements:

data_with_na = pd.Series([1,2,None,4])
cum_sum_with_na = data_with_na.cumsum()


0     1.0
1     3.0
2     3.0
3     7.0
dtype: float64

We observe that `NaN` does not contribute to the cumulative sum, and the operations continue past any missing values without interruption.

Windowed Cumulative Operations

For more nuanced analysis, one may want to compute cumulative sums or products within a moving window across the Series. This is particularly useful for time-series analysis where it might be interesting to observe running totals over fixed periods. Pandas provides the rolling() method for such purposes:

rolling_sum = data.rolling(window=3).sum()


0     NaN
1     NaN
2    12.0
3    18.0
4    24.0
dtype: float64

This method creates a rolling object over which the specified method (in this case, sum) is called. A window of 3 means every element from the third element onwards represents the sum of itself and the previous two elements. Initial elements which do not have enough preceding values will be `NaN`.

Advanced Cumulative Operations

For deeper analyses, pandas allows for the combination of cumulative methods with other data manipulation techniques. For example, we might be interested in only computing the cumulative product of values greater than a certain threshold:

filtered_cum_prod = data[data > 4].cumprod()


2       6
3      48
4     480
dtype: int64

This example filters the Series to include only elements greater than 4 before applying the cumprod() method. It illustrates the flexibility of chaining operations to achieve tailored analytical outcomes.


Understanding how to compute cumulative sums and products in pandas enriches data analysis, enabling the examination of datasets for trends and patterns over sequences. From simple applications to complex, conditional analyses, these techniques are essential in the toolbox of anyone working with data in Python.