ASHWINI KUMAR — Published On February 18, 2022 and Last Modified On March 22nd, 2022
Beginner Data Exploration Python Statistics

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.


In all kinds of data science projects across domains, EDA (exploratory data analytics) is the first go-to analysis, without which the analysis is incomplete or almost impossible to do. One of the key objectives in many multi-variate analyses is to understand relationships between variables which helps answer questions for critical objectives. Examples:

How do sales vary with time of day or day of the week?

How does the amount of house loan amount issued vary with an individual’s income?

We observe high fraud in claims for a particular motor part in auto insurance?

How does mileage vary with the weight of the truckload?

What keywords are used in positive customer reviews on Facebook vs keywords in negative customer reviews?

To answer these questions, it is essential to understand how one variable/feature varies with changes in another. And these variables need not always be numerical, and they can be categorical or even text. So, it is crucial to understand what methods and visuals are to be used to understand and explain the relations/concurrence between the variables.


1. What is bivariate analysis (and its usage in supervised learning)?

2. Correlation vs Causality

3. How to perform & visualize for each type of variable relationship (with Python)

4. Bivariate analysis at scale – tips

5. Closing thoughts

It is assumed that you have a basic idea of datasets and Python when going through this article.

About Bivariate Analysis

It is a methodical statistical technique applied to a pair of variables (features/ attributes) of data to determine the empirical relationship between them. In order words, it is meant to determine any concurrent relations (usually over and above a simple correlation analysis).

In the context of supervised learning, it can help determine the essential predictors when the bivariate analysis is done keeping one of the variables as the dependent variable (Y) and the other ones as independent variables (X1, X2, … and so on) hence plot all Y, Xs pairs. So essentially, it is a way of feature selection and feature prioritization.

E.g. How does the sale of air conditioners look with the average daily temperature during summers – here, we could plot the daily deals with the daily average temperature to observe patterns, trends, or empirical relations, if any.

Correlation vs Causality

It is a widespread fallacy to assume that if one variable is observed to vary with a change in values of another empirically, then either of them is “causing” the other to change or leading the other variable to change. In bivariate analysis, it might be observed that one variable (especially the Xs) is causing Y to change. Still, in actuality, it might just be an indicator and not the actual driver.

The example below would help grasp this concept and avoid the fallacy during bivariate analysis.

Let us quickly look at the illustration below:

Bivariate Analysis in Python


Though it would be seen that both sunburn and ice cream sales are correlated, ice-creams do not cause sunburn (maybe they do the opposite)!

PS: To determine causation, you would need to run experiments; more on it here & here

Bivariate Analysis for Each Variable Type

There are essentially two types of variables in data – Categorical and continuous (numerical). So, in the case of bivariate analysis, there could be four combinations of analysis that could be done that is listed in the summary table below:

Summary Table:

Bivariate Analysis in Python

Source: Designed by the author

To develop a further hands-on understanding, the following is an example of bivariate analysis for each combination listed above in Python:

Categorical vs Categorical Variables

This is used in case both the variables being analyzed are categorical. In the case of classification, models say, for example, we are classifying a credit card fraud or not as Y variables and then checking if the customer is at his hometown or away or outside the country. Another example can be age vs gender and then counting the number of customers who fall in that category. It is important to note that the visualization/summary shows the count or some mathematical or logical aggregation of a 3rd variable/metric like revenue or cost and the like in all such analyses. It can be done using Crosstabs (heatmaps) or Pivots in Python. Let us look at examples below:

Crosstabs: It is used to count between categories, or get summaries between two categories. Pandas library has this functionality.

Categorical | Bivariate Analysis in Python

Source: Designed by the author

Import pandas as pd
Import seaborn as sns
# need to summarize on x and y categorical variables
pd.crosstab(    dd.categ_x, dd.categ_y, margins=True,     values=dd.cust, aggfunc=pd.Series.count)
# 3 any other aggregation function can be used based on column type
# to create a heatmap by enclosing the above in sns.heatmap
sns.heatmap(pd.crosstab(   dd.categ_x, dd.categ_y, margins=True,     values=dd.cust, aggfunc=pd.Series.count),
            cmap="YlGnBu", annot=True, cbar=False)

Pivots: Another useful functionality that can be applied to Pandas dataframes to get Excel like Pivot tables. This can work for 2+ categorical variables when placed in the proper hierarchy.

Pandas Pivot Table


Python code: Assuming the above dataset, just this one line of code can produce the desired bivariate views.

Pd.pivot_table(df,index =[“Manager”,”Status”],columns=[“Product”],aggfunc=[np.sum]

Categorical vs continuous (numerical) variables: It is an example of plotting the variance of a numerical variable in a class. Like how age varies in each segment or how do income and expenses of a household vary by loan re-payment status.

Categorical plot for aggregates of continuous variables: Used to get total or counts of a numerical variable eg revenue for each month. PS: This can be used for counts of another categorical variable too instead of the numerical.

Plots used are: bar plot and count plot
Categorical vs continuous (numerical) variables

Source: Designed by the author for this writing

Plots for distribution of continuous (numerical) variables: Use to see the range and statistics of a numerical variable across categories

Plots used are – box plot, violin plot, swarm plot

sns.violinplot(x="day", y="total_bill", data=t,palette='rainbow')
sns.stripplot(x="day", y="total_bill", data=t)
sns.swarmplot(x="day", y="total_bill", data=t)


Box Plot, Strip Plot, Swarm Plot and Violin Plot

Source: Designed by the author for this writing


Continuous vs continuous: This is the most common use case of bivariate analysis and is used for showing the empirical relationship between two numerical (continuous) variables. This is usually more applicable in regression cases.

The following plots make sense in this case: scatterplot, regplot.

Code below:

Import seaborn as sns

Bivariate Analysis at Scale

In case we have large datasets with 30-70+ features (variables), there might not be sufficient time to run each pair of variables through bivariate analysis one by one. We could use the pairplot or pair grid from the seaborn library in such cases. It makes a grid where each cell is a bivariate graph, and Pairgrid also allows customizations. Code snippets and sample outputs below (assuming seaborn is imported and the iris dataset):


g = sns.pairplot(iris, diag_kind="kde", markers="+",
                 plot_kws=dict(s=50, edgecolor="b", linewidth=1),


Bivariate Analysis

Source: Designed by the author for this writing


g = sns.PairGrid(iris)
g = g.map_upper(sns.scatterplot)
g = g.map_lower(sns.kdeplot, colors="C0")
g = g.map_diag(sns.kdeplot, lw=2)




Why not just run a correlation matrix here?

The correlation matrix only provides a single numerical value without providing any information about the distribution which provides an in-depth picture of empirical relationships between variables in the bivariate analysis.

Practical Tips:

Please note this only works for numerical variables (to do it for categorical we need to first convert to numerical forms with techniques like one-hot encoding).

For very large datasets, group independent variables into groups of 10/15/20 and then run bivariate for each with respect to the dependent variable.

EDA with one line of code!

The pandas profiling library – a shorthand & quick way for EDA and bivariate analysis – more on this here. It does most of the univariate, bivariate and other EDA analyses.


Bivariate analysis is crucial in exploratory data analysis (EDA), especially during model design, as the end-users desire to know what impacts the predictions and in what way. This can be extended to multi-variate cases, but the human mind is designed to comprehend the 2-D or 3-D world easily. Where there are two variables, it is easier to interpret, gain intuition and take action. Thus, the bivariate analysis goes a long way in defining how a particular variable is empirically related to another and what can we expect if one happens to be in a specific range or have a particular value.

Reiterating that this (correlation) should not be confused with causation (experimentation is better to use in that case). 

Hope you liked my article on Bivariate Analysis in Python.

Article by Ashwini Kumar | Data Science Lead & Crusader | Linkedin


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