What is Crosstab?


Crosstab or Cross Tabulation is used to aggregate and jointly display the distribution of two or more variables by tabulating their results one against the other in 2-dimensional grids. It uses a process of creating contingency tables from the multivariate frequency distribution of variables, presented in a matrix format. Crosstab is widely used in survey results to find out interrelationships and interactions between variables.

Crosstab construction and analysis is usually done through various statistical packages. Stata is a statistical package widely used to build Crosstabs. SPSS is also used for Crosstab Analysis. While SPSS provides the flexibility of choosing whichever variable you want on which axis, it allows only seven categories in the ‘column’ variable without the problem of wrapping over. There is however, no limit on the number of categories for the dependent variable. Further, though SPSS allows you to calculate and display percentages for all three (row, column and total), doing so will produce a cluttered output which becomes difficult to interpret.

Illustration and Practical Applications of Crosstab Analysis

A simple example of Crosstab analysis can be a 2x2 contingency table, where one variable is Age Group and the other is preference for Denims or Cotton Trousers.


Below 30 yrs Above 30 yrs Total



14 8 22

Cotton Trousers

6 12 18


20 20 40

This displays that while 70% of respondents below the age of 30 prefer denims, only 40% respondents above 30yrs of age prefer denims as compared to cotton trousers. This information can be easily used by a company manufacturing both products to target the right age group for the appropriate product.

So if you are marketer wanting to increase your brand’s visibility through better promotions aimed at the factors influencing sales in your target segment, Crosstab analysis will provide you deep insights on customer profile and relevant purchase behavior. This enhanced understanding of your target market’s requirements will help you design a better and more targeted branding and promotion strategy to achieve the end objective of higher sales.

Crosstabs are widely used in quantitative market research and surveys. They help identify trends. Further, they help identify the type of response of a particular category of respondents. This often helps us in understanding what effects an action will have on a category of our target segment. So an FMCG company might be able to analyze what effect a price change might have on its urban vis-á-vis its rural consumers, or a survey might be used to gauge the effectiveness of a particular advertising campaign on a its male vis-á-vis its female user groups.

Benefits of Crosstab

Crosstabs have various advantages as a tool over other statistical tools. Firstly, they are simple to compute and easy to understand. Secondly, they provide comparative data on two or more variables across multiple features at one glance. In certain cases, they may also help solve the issue of missing data. Further, Crosstabs can be used with any type of data whether it is ordinal, nominal, ratio or interval data.

Today, most companies use Data Warehousing intensively. In these, the use of software applications like relational database management systems can facilitate the cross tabulation of any two data with each other to compare them and spot their correlation. Recently, a few modern systems have even started including a dynamic crosstab functionality which allows you to handle constantly changing values of a variable.

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