Understanding Cross Tabulation

Travis Hartin, Yolanda Williams, Christianlly Cena
  • Author
    Travis Hartin

    Travis has taught college-level statistics, research methods, and psychology courses for eight years. Travis has a Master’s degree and PhD in experimental psychology from Kent State University with a focus on student learning and cognitive research.

  • Instructor
    Yolanda Williams

    Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

  • Expert Contributor
    Christianlly Cena

    Christianlly has taught college Physics, Natural science, Earth science, and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree.

Learn the definition of cross-tabulation. Discover its uses and benefits, and see real-life cross-tabulation examples including cross-tabulation analysis. Updated: 04/04/2022

Table of Contents


What is Cross-Tabulation?

The cross-tabulations definition is an analysis that uses a table to describe or summarize the relationship between two different variables. This term comes from the general concept of tabulation definition in statistics, which is the presentation of numerical values in a table that serves to summarize the findings of a research study. The table used in cross-tabulation is called a cross table, a two-way table, a contingency table (i.e., frequency tables), or a pivot table. In cross tables, one variable is represented in the rows of the table, and the other variable is represented in the columns. The cells contain numerical values associated with these variables, such as the number of times the variables were observed or occurred. Cross-tabulation is used in various statistical analysis programs to analyze various data types, such as SPSS (cross tabulation SPSS) and Excel.

For example, a teacher might use a cross-table to compare the rate at which juniors and seniors pass or fail an advanced statistics course.

Yes No
Junior 12 4
Senior 18 2

In the previous cross-table, the rows represent the different groups of students, and the columns represent whether or not the students passed the advanced statistics course. Using this table, the teacher can easily determine the pass or failure rate amongst the different groups of students in the class.

Use of Cross Tabulation

Cross-tabulation, or cross tab analysis, is generally used for research purposes. It is often used to analyze the association, frequency, or probability distribution of categorical variables (categorical data) or variables representing discrete groups or classifications. Cross-tabulation is particularly important in a chi-square analysis, which uses cross-tables to analyze the likelihood that a variable or outcome will occur. Specifically, a chi-square analysis is used to determine whether or not there is a significant difference between the number of times something was observed to occur and the number of times it was predicted to occur.

Consider the following research questions that can involve cross-table analysis:

  • Is there a relationship between students' GPA and whether they enroll in online or face-to-face courses?
  • Is there an association between voter turnout and political party membership?
  • Are men more likely to file their income taxes late than women?
  • What is the probability that police officers will pull over drunk drivers compared to the probability that sober drivers will be pulled over?
  • Who is more likely to exercise weekly, people who live in cities or people who live in rural areas?

Benefits of Cross Tabulation

There are several benefits to using cross-tabulation.

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Cross Tabulation Activity


Mark recently opened a sports and fitness center in his town. In just the first week, he has already gained 148 regular customers, 87 of which are male and 61 of which are female. To get feedback on the products and services that his store is offering, he decided to conduct a customer survey.

Taking gender into account, Mark asked his customers about their satisfaction level with his products and services. The answer options were unsatisfied, satisfied, and unsure. There were 25 unsatisfied, 12 unsure and 50 satisfied male customers. There were 5 unsatisfied, 20 unsure and 36 satisfied females customers. In total, there are 30 unsatisfied, 32 unsure and 86 satisfied customers.


  1. For this given scenario, create a contingency table showing the given data using cross tabulation. The table should focus on two variables (gender and the satisfaction level).
  2. Is there any data that can be classified as categorical data?
  3. What can you say about the total number of satisfied versus unsatisfied customers? Is Mark's business doing well in its first week of operation?
  4. What will happen if the number of unsatisfied customers were greater than the number of satisfied customers? What should Mark do to lessen the dissatisfaction level?

Answer Key

  1. You should obtain a table that is similar to this:
  2. The categorical data in this scenario are gender and the satisfaction levels of the customers.
  3. There are more satisfied customers than unsatisfied. With the given data, Mark's business is actually doing well in its first week.
  4. It will mean that people are not happy with the products and services being offered. He should improve the quality of these products and services and ask for suggestions or consult business professionals.

Why is cross tabulation used?

Cross tabulation is used to compare categorical variables. It allows researchers to summarize large sets of data quickly and efficiently. It also makes it easier to understand trends in data.

What is meant by cross tabulation give an example?

Cross tabulation is used to compare two different categories of variables. For example, cross-tabulation can be used to compare the likelihood that men and women will take on gardening as a hobby.

What is the difference between cross tabulation and chi square?

Chi-square is a specific type of statistical analysis used to investigate the likelihood that a particular event or series of events will occur. Cross-tabulation is a general method of comparing two variables using a table.

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