I am trying to create a plot in R which gives me boxplots (and/or distributions) of one column ranked by quantiles (and/or equally spaced groups) of another column in a dataframe.

An example would be the following plot:

enter image description here

Can anybody give me references for packages or sites where the creation is explained?


1 Answer 1


Here is a possible solution using base R graphics:

n <- 1000
x <- runif(n, 0, 100)
y <- 1.1*x + rnorm(n)
xq <- cut2(x, g=10, levels.mean=TRUE)
ym <- tapply(y, xq, mean)
# display the mean for each decile
plot(as.numeric(levels(xq)), ym, pch="x", xlab="x", ylab="y")
# add the boxplots
boxplot(y ~ xq, add=TRUE, at=as.numeric(levels(xq)), axes=FALSE)
abline(v=cut2(x, g=10, onlycuts=TRUE))

If data are in a data.frame, just add a data= argument when calling boxplot(). You can play with the boxwex argument to increase box plots widths. If you prefer to stick on the default cut() function, you can probably parse right values of the deciles as in the code below (surely there's a cleaner way to do that!):

xq <- cut(x, quantile(x, seq(0, 1, by=.1)))
vx <- gsub("\\(", "", unlist(strsplit(levels(xq), ","))[seq(1, 18, by=2)])

enter image description here

A simple ggplot solution might look like this:

xy <- data.frame(x=x, y=y)
ggplot(xy, aes(x, y, group=xq)) + geom_boxplot() + xlim(0, 100)

I don't know of any package for "decile plots", but I would like to recommend the bpplt() and panel.bpplot() from the Hmisc package. E.g., try this

bwplot(xq ~ y, panel=panel.bpplot, probs=.25, datadensity=TRUE)
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you again. One small thing that I noticed: With my data the first to boxplots are not in the middle of the boxes defined by the vertical lines (the first boxplot shifted very much to the right, the second to the left). But I can't find the mistake. How can this happen? $\endgroup$
    – vonjd
    Dec 6, 2011 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ @vonjd It is worth checking the code of cut2 twice but I think it is because when levels.mean=TRUE the mean of [a,b) is considered rather than its centre point. Hence, depending on the spread of the $x_i$'s along the x-axis, the boxplot might not necessarily align with the vertical lines. You could, however, compute the centre point yourself by extracting the lower and upper values for each interval (much like I did in the 2nd snippet for vx). $\endgroup$
    – chl
    Dec 6, 2011 at 13:23

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