How to Calculate Sample & Population Variance in R

Spread the love

Variance is a fundamental concept in statistics that measures the spread of a set of data points. In this article, we will discuss in detail the two types of variance – sample variance and population variance. Furthermore, we will delve into the various methods available in R for calculating them.

Introduction to Variance

Variance measures how far a set of numbers are spread out from their average value. It is used in statistics to find trends in data. For instance, it might help an investor to understand the volatility of stock prices.

Population Variance

Population variance is the average of the squared differences from the Mean. It’s used when you have a complete dataset.

Sample Variance

Sample variance is similar to population variance, but is used when you only have a sample of the data instead of the whole data set. It uses a slightly different formula to compensate for the sample bias.

Mathematical Formulas

For a population with N elements (x1, x2, …, xN) and mean μ,

Population Variance (σ^2) = Σ(x – μ)^2 / N

For a sample with n elements (x1, x2, …, xn) and sample mean x̄,

Sample Variance (S^2) = Σ(x – x̄)^2 / (n-1)

Calculating Population Variance in R

Let’s start by calculating the population variance.

# Population data
data <- c(2, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 9)

# Mean of the population
mean <- mean(data)

# Calculate the population variance
population_variance <- sum((data - mean) ^ 2) / length(data)

# Print the population variance

Calculating Sample Variance in R

In R, the var function is used to calculate the sample variance by default.

# Sample data
sample_data <- c(2, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 9)

# Calculate the sample variance
sample_variance <- var(sample_data)

# Print the sample variance

Working with Datasets in R

You may also want to calculate variance for datasets. Here’s how you can calculate variance for a particular dataset column.

# Load the built-in dataset 'mtcars'

# Calculate the sample variance for the 'mpg' column
sample_variance_mpg <- var(mtcars$mpg)

# Print the sample variance

Visualizing Variance in R

Visualization is an excellent way to understand data. You can use boxplots to visualize the variance.

# Using the mtcars dataset
boxplot(mtcars$mpg, main = "MPG Variance", ylab = "Miles Per Gallon")

This boxplot will give you a visual representation of how spread out the data is in the ‘mpg’ column of the ‘mtcars’ dataset.


Understanding variance is essential in statistics as it provides insight into how data is distributed. R provides powerful and flexible tools for calculating sample and population variance. Whether you are dealing with simple data sets or complex datasets, knowing how to calculate variance in R efficiently is a valuable skill for data analysis. Through the practical examples and concepts discussed in this article, you are now equipped with the knowledge necessary for calculating both sample and population variance in R.

Posted in RTagged

Leave a Reply