Pandas – Understanding DataFrame.skew() method

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


In the realm of data analysis with Python, the Pandas library stands out due to its powerful and flexible data structures. Among its numerous functionalities is the skew() method, which is applied to DataFrames. This tutorial will delve into the skew() method, demonstrating its utility in measuring the asymmetry of the probability distribution of a dataset. By understanding and applying this method, data analysts can glean insights into the distribution tendencies of their data, which is particularly useful in exploratory data analysis.

Understanding Data Skewness

Before diving into the skew() method, it’s crucial to grasp what skewness means in the context of statistics. Skewness is a measure of the asymmetry of the probability distribution of a real-valued random variable. In simpler terms, it’s a way to see how much a distribution deviates from the normal distribution (bell curve), where a value of zero indicates perfect symmetry.

  • Negative Skew: Indicates a distribution with a longer tail on the left side.
  • Positive Skew: Indicates a distribution with a longer tail on the right side.
  • Zero Skew: Signifies a symmetrical distribution.

Basic Usage of skew() Method

To start with, let’s look at how to calculate the skewness of a dataset using the skew() method in Pandas. Assuming you have already installed Pandas, you can follow along with these code examples.

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Create a simple DataFrame
data = {'scores': [2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Calculate skewness
skewness = df['scores'].skew()
print(f'Skewness: {skewness}')


Skewness: 0.0

In the above example, the data is symmetrically distributed; thus, you would expect the skewness value to be close to zero. However, due to the limited range of data, you might see a slight deviation from zero.

Exploring Skewness in Multivariate Data

Now, let’s extend our exploration to multivariate data and see how the skew() method behaves.

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Create a multivariate DataFrame
data = {
    "Physics": np.random.normal(100, 10, 100),
    "Chemistry": np.random.beta(2, 5, 100) * 100,
    "Maths": np.random.lognormal(4, 1, 100),
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Calculate skewness
skewness = df.skew()


Physics      0.287272
Chemistry    0.699594
Maths        3.017030
dtype: float64

This code segment generates a DataFrame containing three subjects with differing distribution types: normal, beta, and lognormal. Applying the skew() method on the DataFrame yields the skewness of each column, reflecting the distribution asymmetry of each subject’s scores.

Handling Null Values

In real-world data, missing or null values are common, and handling them correctly is important when calculating skewness. Pandas’ skew() method intelligently skips these null values. However, knowing the impact of these omissions is crucial for accurate analysis. Here’s an example to demonstrate this.

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Create DataFrame with null values
data = {'scores': [1, np.nan, 3, 4, 5, np.nan, 7]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Calculate skewness
skewness = df['scores'].skew()
print(f'Skewness with null values: {skewness}')


Skewness with null values: 0.0

The output reflects the skewness calculation while ignoring the NaN values. This feature is particularly helpful as it allows for clean analysis without the need for prior data cleaning specific to skewness calculations.

Advanced Applications

Understanding the skewness of a dataset is crucial, but applying this knowledge to enhance data analysis or preprocessing steps can provide richer insights. For instance, if significant skewness is discovered, transformations like logarithmic, square root, or Box-Cox can be applied to normalize the data.


The skew() method in Pandas is a powerful tool for measuring the asymmetry of data distributions. Whether you are exploring basic univariate datasets or analyzing complex multivariate ones, understanding the distribution’s skewness can guide in-depth analysis and preprocessing decisions. By integrating skewness analysis into your data examination routine, you can uncover insightful trends and characteristics that might otherwise remain hidden.