How to create new values in a pandas dataframe column based on values from another column

In this blog, we’ll delve into scenarios frequently faced by data scientists or software engineers, where the manipulation of data within a pandas dataframe becomes a necessity. One prevalent undertaking involves the creation of new values within a dataframe column, relying on values from another column. The focus of this article is to elucidate the methods employed in accomplishing this task using pandas.

As a data scientist or software engineer, you often encounter situations where you need to manipulate data in a pandas dataframe. One common task is to create new values in a dataframe column based on values from another column. In this article, we will explore how to achieve this using pandas.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Solution
  3. Common Errors and Solutions
  4. Best Practices
  5. Conclusion

Understanding the problem

Before we dive into the solution, let us first understand the problem we are trying to solve. Suppose we have a pandas dataframe with the following columns:

| Name | Age |
| John | 25  |
| Mary | 30  |
| Jane | 35  |

Now, suppose we want to create a new column called “Category” based on the Age column. We want to categorize people into three groups: “Young” if their age is less than 30, “Middle-aged” if their age is between 30 and 40, and “Elderly” if their age is greater than 40. The resulting dataframe should look like this:

| Name | Age | Category   |
| John | 25  | Young      |
| Mary | 30  | Middle-aged|
| Jane | 35  | Middle-aged|


Using apply() function

To create the new column based on values from another column, we can use the apply() function in pandas. The apply() function applies a function to each element in a pandas series or dataframe. We can define a function that takes an age value and returns the corresponding category.

Here is the code to create the new column:

import pandas as pd

# Create the original dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame({'Name': ['John', 'Mary', 'Jane'],
                   'Age': [25, 30, 35]})

# Define the function to categorize ages
def categorize_age(age):
    if age < 30:
        return 'Young'
    elif age >= 30 and age <= 40:
        return 'Middle-aged'
        return 'Elderly'

# Apply the function to the Age column using the apply() function
df['Category'] = df['Age'].apply(categorize_age)

# Print the resulting dataframe

The output of the above code should be:

| Name | Age | Category   |
| John | 25  | Young      |
| Mary | 30  | Middle-aged|
| Jane | 35  | Middle-aged|

Using numpy and

While the apply() function is a powerful tool for creating new columns based on existing ones, an alternative method using numpy and can provide a more concise and efficient solution, especially when dealing with multiple conditions.

Here’s how you can achieve the same result using numpy:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np

# Create the original dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame({'Name': ['John', 'Mary', 'Jane'],
                   'Age': [25, 30, 35]})

# Define the conditions and corresponding categories
conditions = [
    df['Age'] < 30,
    (df['Age'] >= 30) & (df['Age'] <= 40),
    df['Age'] > 40

categories = ['Young', 'Middle-aged', 'Elderly']

# Use to create the new column
df['Category'] =, categories, default='Unknown')

# Print the resulting dataframe

This approach can be particularly useful when dealing with more complex conditions, as it allows you to express them in a more concise manner.


   Name  Age     Category
0  John   25        Young
1  Mary   30  Middle-aged
2  Jane   35  Middle-aged

Common Errors and Solutions:

1. Error: Misusing Conditions in apply() or

  • Common Mistake: Incorrectly defining conditions can lead to unexpected results. For example, using age >= 30 and age <= 40 instead of the correct age >= 30 & age <= 40 in the apply() function or numpy conditions.

  • Solution: Ensure that you use the correct syntax for conditions. In pandas, use & for element-wise logical AND operations, and make sure to wrap conditions in parentheses for proper evaluation.

2. Error: Forgetting Default Value in

  • Common Mistake: Forgetting to provide a default value in can result in unexpected behavior, especially when none of the specified conditions is satisfied.

  • Solution: Always include a default value in to handle cases where none of the conditions is true. This can prevent the creation of a column with unexpected null values.

Best Practices:

1. Vectorized Operations for Efficiency:

  • Leverage vectorized operations provided by pandas and numpy for improved performance. These operations are optimized for handling large datasets efficiently.

2. Use loc for DataFrame Modifications:

  • When modifying a DataFrame based on conditions, consider using df.loc[conditions, 'Column'] for assignment. This ensures that modifications occur in place, avoiding potential SettingWithCopyWarning issues.

3. Test with Sample Data:

  • Before applying transformations to the entire dataset, test your code with a smaller sample to catch potential errors and ensure the desired outcome.

4. Document Your Code:

  • Clearly document the conditions and logic used for creating new columns. This helps in maintaining and debugging code in the future.



In this exploration of creating new values in a pandas dataframe based on values from another column, we’ve covered two effective methods: the classic apply() function and a more concise approach using numpy and Both methods offer flexibility, allowing data scientists and software engineers to choose the one that suits their preferences and specific requirements.

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