5 Graph tables, add labels, make notes

This Chapter builds on the foundation we have laid down. Things will get a little more sophisticated in three ways. First, we will learn about how to transform data before we send it to ggplot to be turned into a figure. As we saw in Chapter 4, ggplot’s geoms will often summarize data for us. While convenient, this can sometimes be awkward or even a little opaque. Often, it’s better to get things into the right shape before we send anything to ggplot. This is a job for another tidyverse component, the dplyr library. We will learn how to use some of its “action verbs” to select, group, summarize and transform our data.

Second, we will expand the number of geoms we know about, and learn more about how to choose between them. The more we learn about ggplot’s geoms, the easier it will be to pick the right one given the data we have and the visualization we want. As we learn about new geoms, we will also get a little more adventurous and depart from some of ggplot’s default arguments and settings. We will learn how to reorder the variables displayed in our figures, and how to subset the data we use before we display it.

Third, this process of gradual customization will give us the opportunity to learn a little more about the scale, guide, and theme functions that we have mostly taken for granted until now. These will give us even more control over the content and appearance of our graphs. Together, these techniques can be used to make plots much more legible to readers. They allow us to present our data in a more structured and easily comprehensible way, and to pick out the elements of it that are of particular interest. We will begin to use these techniques to layer geoms on top of one another, a technique that will allow us to produce very sophisticated graphs in a systematic, comprehensible way.

Our basic approach will not change. No matter how complex our plots get, or how many individual steps we take to layer and tweak their features, underneath we will always be doing the same thing. We want a table of tidy data, a mapping of variables to aesthetic elements, and a particular type of graph. If you can keep sight of this, it will make it easier to confidently approach the job of getting any particular graph to look just right.

Table 5.1: Column marginals. (Numbers in columns sum to 100.)

Protestant Catholic Jewish None Other NA
Northeast 12 25 53 18 18 6
Midwest 24 27 6 25 21 28
South 47 25 22 27 31 61
West 17 24 20 29 30 6

5.1 Use pipes to summarize data

In Chapter 4 we began making plots of the distributions and relative frequencies of variables. Cross-classifying one measure by another is one of the basic descriptive tasks in data analysis. Tables 5.1 and 5.2 show two common ways of summarizing our GSS data on the distribution of religious affiliation and region. Table 5.1 shows the column marginals, where the numbers sum to a hundred by column and show, e.g., the distribution of Protestants across regions. Meanwhile in Table 5.2 the numbers sum to a hundred across the rows, showing for example the distribution of religious affiliations within any particular region.

We saw in Chapter 4 that geom_bar() can plot both counts and relative frequencies depending on what we asked of it. In practice, though, letting the geoms (and their stat_ functions) do the work can sometimes get a little confusing. It is too easy to lose track of whether one has calculated row margins, column margins, or overall relative frequencies. The code to do the calculations on the fly ends up stuffed into the mapping function and can become hard to read. A better strategy is to calculate the frequency table you want first, and then plot that table. This has the benefit of allowing you do to some quick sanity checks on your tables, to make sure you haven’t made any errors.

Table 5.2: Row marginals. (Numbers in rows sum to 100.)

Protestant Catholic Jewish None Other NA
Northeast 32 33 6 23 6 0
Midwest 47 25 0 23 5 1
South 62 15 1 16 5 1
West 38 25 2 28 8 0

Let’s say we want a plot of the row-marginals for religion within region. We will take the opportunity to do a little bit of data-munging in order to get from our underlying table of GSS data to the summary tabulation that we want to plot. To do this we will use the tools provided by dplyr, a component of the tidyverse library that provides functions for manipulating and reshaping tables of data on the fly. We start from our individual-level gss_sm data frame with its bigregion and religion variables. Our goal is a summary table with percentages of religious preferences grouped within region.

How we want to transform the individual-level data.

Figure 5.1: How we want to transform the individual-level data.

As shown schematically in Figure 5.1, we will start with our individual-level table of about 2,500 GSS respondents. Then we want to summarize them into a new table that shows a count of each religious preference, grouped by region. Finally we will turn these within-region counts into percentages, where the denominator is the total number of respondents within each region. The dplyr library provides a few tools to make this easy and clear to read. We will use a special operator, %>%, to do our work. This is the pipe operator. It plays the role of the yellow triangle in Figure 5.1, in that it helps us perform the actions that get us from one table to the next.

We have being building our plots in an additive fashion, starting with a ggplot object and layering on new elements. By analogy, think of the %>% operator as allowing us to start with a data frame and perform a sequence or pipeline of operations to turn it into another, usually smaller and more aggregated table. Data goes in one side of the pipe, actions are performed via functions, and results come out the other. A pipeline is typically a series of operations that do one or more of four things:

  • Groupgroup_by() the data into the nested structure we want for our summary, such as “Religion by Region” or “Authors by Publications by Year”.
  • Filterfilter() rows; select() columns or select pieces of the data by row, column, or both. This gets us the piece of the table we want to work on.
  • Mutatemutate() the data by creating new variables at the current level of grouping. This adds new columns to the table without aggregating it.
  • Summarizesummarize() or aggregate the grouped data. This creates new variables at a higher level of grouping. For example we might calculate means with mean() or counts with n(). This results in a smaller, summary table, which we might do more things on if we want.

We use the dplyr functions group_by(), filter(), select(), mutate(), and summarize() to carry out these tasks within our pipeline. They are written in a way that allows them to be easily piped. That is, they understand how to take inputs from the left side of a pipe operator and pass results along through the right side of one. The dplyr documentation has some useful vignettes that introduce these grouping, filtering, selection, and transformation functions. There is also a more detailed discussion of these tools, along with many more examples, in Wickham & Grolemund (2016).

We will create a new table called rel_by_region. Here’s the code:

rel_by_region <- gss_sm %>%
    group_by(bigregion, religion) %>%
    summarize(N = n()) %>%
    mutate(freq = N / sum(N),
           pct = round((freq*100), 0))

What are these lines doing? First, we are creating an object as usual, with the familiar assignment operator, <-. Next, at the steps to the right. Read the objects and functions from left to right, with the pipe operator “%>%” connecting them together meaning “and then …”. Objects on the left hand side “pass through” the pipe, and whatever is specified on the right of the pipe gets done to that object. The resulting object then passes through to the right again, and so on down to the end of the pipeline.

Reading from the left, the code says this:

  • Createrel_by_region <- gss_sm %>% a new object, rel_by_region. It will get the result of the following sequence of actions: Start with the gss_sm data, and then
  • Groupgroup_by(bigregion, religion) %>% the rows by bigregion and, within that, by religion.
  • Summarize this tablesummarize(N = n()) %>% to create a new, much smaller table, with three columns: bigregion, religion, and a new summary variable, N, that is a count of the number of observations within each religious group for each region.
  • With this new table, mutate(freq = N / sum(N), pct = round((freq*100), 0)) use the N variable to calculate two new columns: the relative proportion (freq) and percentage (pct) for each religious category, still grouped by region. Round the results to the nearest percentage point.

In this way of doing things, objects passed along the pipeline and the functions acting on them carry some assumptions about their context. For one thing, you don’t have to keep specifying the name of the underlying data frame object you are working from. Everything is implicitly carried forward from gss_sm. Within the pipeline, the transient or implicit objects created from your summaries and other transformations are carried through, too.

Second, the group_by() function sets up how the grouped or nested data will be processed within the summarize() step. Any function used to create a new variable within summarize(), such as mean() or sd() or n(), will be applied to the innermost grouping level first. Grouping levels are named from left to right within group_by() from outermost to innermost. So the function call summarize(N = n()) counts up the number of observations for each value of religion within bigregion and puts them in a new variable named N. As dplyr’s functions see things, summarizing actions “peel off” one grouping level at a time, so that the resulting summaries are at the next level up. In this case, we start with individual-level observations and group them by religion within region. The summarize() operation aggregates the individual observations to counts of the number of people affiliated with each religion, for each region.

Third, the mutate() step takes the N variable and uses it to create freq, the relative frequency for each subgroup within region, and finally pct, the relative frequency turned into a rounded percentage. These mutate() operations add or remove columns from tables, but do not change the grouping level.

Inside both mutate() and summarize(), we are able to create new variables in a way that we have not seen before. Usually, when we see something like name = value inside a function, the name is a general, named argument and the function is expecting information from us about the specific value it should take.As in the case of aes(x = gdpPercap, y = lifeExp), for example. Normally if we give a function a named argument it doesn’t know about (aes(chuckles = year)) it will ignore it, complain, or break. With summarize() and mutate(), however, we can invent named arguments. We are still assigning specific values to N, freq, and pct, but we pick the names, too. They are the names that the newly-created variables in the summary table will have. The summarize() and mutate() functions do not need to know what they will be in advance.

Finally, when we use mutate() to create the freq variable, not only can we make up that name within the function, mutate() is also clever enough to let us use that name right away, on the next line of the same function call, when we create the pct variable. This means we do not have to repeatedly write separate mutate() calls for every new variable we want to create.

Our pipeline takes the gss_sm data frame, which has 2867 rows and 32 columns, and transforms it into rel_by_region, a summary table with 24 rows and 5 columns that looks like this, in part:


## # A tibble: 24 x 5
## # Groups:   bigregion [4]
##    bigregion religion       N    freq   pct
##    <fct>     <fct>      <int>   <dbl> <dbl>
##  1 Northeast Protestant   158 0.324   32.0 
##  2 Northeast Catholic     162 0.332   33.0 
##  3 Northeast Jewish        27 0.0553   6.00
##  4 Northeast None         112 0.230   23.0 
##  5 Northeast Other         28 0.0574   6.00
##  6 Northeast <NA>           1 0.00205  0   
##  7 Midwest   Protestant   325 0.468   47.0 
##  8 Midwest   Catholic     172 0.247   25.0 
##  9 Midwest   Jewish         3 0.00432  0   
## 10 Midwest   None         157 0.226   23.0 
## # ... with 14 more rows

The variables specified in group_by() are retained in the new summary table; the variables created with summarize() and mutate() are added, and all the other variables in the original dataset are dropped.

We said before that, when trying to grasp what each additive step in a ggplot() sequence does, it can be helpful to work backwards, removing one piece at a time to see what the plot looks like when that step is not included. In the same way, when looking at pipelined code it can be helpful to start from the end of the line, and then remove one “%>%” step at a time to see what the resulting intermediate object looks like. For instance, what if we remove the mutate() step from the code above? What does rel_by_region look like then? What if we remove the summarize() step? How big is the table returned at each step? What level of grouping is it at? What variables have been added or removed?

Plots that do not require sequential aggregation and transformation of the data before they are displayed are usually easy to write directly in ggplot, as the details of the layout are handled by a combination of mapping variables and layering geoms. One-step filtering or aggregation of the data (such as calculating a proportion, or a specific subset of observations) is also straightforward. But when the result we want to display is several steps removed from the data, and in particular when we want to group or aggregate a table and do some more calculations on the result before drawing anything, then it can make sense to use dplyr’s tools to produce these summary tables first. This is true even if would also be possible to do it within a ggplot() call. In addition to making our code easier to read, it lets us more easily perform sanity checks on our results, so that we are sure we have grouped and summarized things in the right order. For instance, if we have done things properly with rel_by_region, the pct values associated with religion should sum to 100 within each region, perhaps with a bit of rounding error. We can quickly check this using a very short pipeline, too:

rel_by_region %>% group_by(bigregion) %>%
    summarize(total = sum(pct))

## # A tibble: 4 x 2
##   bigregion total
##   <fct>     <dbl>
## 1 Northeast   100
## 2 Midwest     101
## 3 South       100
## 4 West        101

This looks good. As before, now that we are working directly with percentage values in a summary table, we can use geom_col() instead of geom_bar().

Religious preferences by Region. Figure 5.2: Religious preferences by Region.

p <- ggplot(rel_by_region, aes(x = bigregion, y = pct, fill = religion))
p + geom_col(position = "dodge2") +
    labs(x = "Region",y = "Percent", fill = "Religion") +
    theme(legend.position = "top")

We use a different position argument here, dodge2 instead of dodge. This puts the bars side by side. When dealing with pre-computed values in geom_col(), the default position is to make a proportionally stacked column chart. If you use dodge they will be stacked within columns but the result will read incorrectly. Using dodge2 puts the sub-categories (religious affiliations) side-by-side within groups (regions).

The values in this bar chart are the percentage equivalents to the stacked counts in Figure 4.10. Religious affiliations sum to 100 percent within region. The trouble is, although we now know how to cleanly produce frequency tables, this is still a bad figure. It is too crowded, with too many bars side-by-side. We can do better.

As a rule, dodged charts can be more cleanly expressed as faceted plots. This removes the need for a legend, and thus makes the chart simpler to read. We also introduce a new function. If we map religion to the x-axis, the labels will overlap and become illegible. It’s possible to manually adjust the tick mark labels so that they are printed at an angle, but that isn’t so easy to read, either. It makes more sense to put the religions on the y-axis and the percent scores on the x-axis. Because of the way geom_bar() works internally, simply swapping the x and y mapping will not work. (Try it and see what happens.) What we do instead is to transform the coordinate system that the results are plotted in, so that the x and y axes are flipped. We do this with coord_flip().

p <- ggplot(rel_by_region, aes(x = religion, y = pct, fill = religion))
p + geom_col(position = "dodge2") +
    labs(x = NULL, y = "Percent", fill = "Religion") +
    guides(fill = FALSE) + 
    coord_flip() + 
    facet_grid(~ bigregion)

Religious preferences by Region, faceted version.

Figure 5.3: Religious preferences by Region, faceted version.

For most plots the coordinate system is cartesian, showing plots on a plane defined by an x-axis and a y-axis. The coord_cartesian() function manages this, but we don’t need to call it. The coord_flip() function switches the x and y axes after the plot is made. It does not remap variables to aesthetics. In this case, religion is still mapped to x and pct to y. Because the religion names do not need an axis label to be understood, we set x = NULL in the labs() call.

We will see more of what dplyr’s grouping and filtering operations can do later. It is a flexible and powerful framework. For now, think of it as a way to quickly summarize tables of data without having to write code in the body of our ggplot() or geom_ functions.

5.2 Continuous variables by group or category

Let’s move to a new dataset, the organdata table. Like gapminder, it has a country-year structure. It contains a little more than a decade’s worth of information on the donation of organs for transplants in seventeen OECD countries. The organ procurement rate is a measure of the number of human organs obtained from cadaver organ donors for use in transplant operations. Along with this donation data, the dataset has a variety of numerical demographic measures, and several categorical measures of health and welfare policy and law. Unlike the gapminder data, some observations are missing. These are designated with a value of NA, R’s standard code for missing data. The organdata table is included in the socviz library. Load it up and take a quick look. Instead of using head(), for variety this time we will make a short pipeline to select the first six columns of the dataset, and then pick five rows at random using a function called sample_n(). This function takes two main arguments. First we provide the table of data we want to sample from. Because we are using a pipeline, this is implicitly passed down from the beginning of the pipe. Then we supply the number of draws we want to make.Using numbers this way in select() chooses the numbered columns of the data frame. You can also select variable names directly.

organdata %>% select(1:6) %>% sample_n(size = 10)

## # A tibble: 10 x 6
##    country        year       donors   pop pop_dens   gdp
##    <chr>          <date>      <dbl> <int>    <dbl> <int>
##  1 Switzerland    NA           NA      NA    NA       NA
##  2 Switzerland    1997-01-01   14.3  7089    17.2  27675
##  3 United Kingdom 1997-01-01   13.4 58283    24.0  22442
##  4 Sweden         NA           NA    8559     1.90 18660
##  5 Ireland        2002-01-01   21.0  3932     5.60 32571
##  6 Germany        1998-01-01   13.4 82047    23.0  23283
##  7 Italy          NA           NA   56719    18.8  17430
##  8 Italy          2001-01-01   17.1 57894    19.2  25359
##  9 France         1998-01-01   16.5 58398    10.6  24044
## 10 Spain          1995-01-01   27.0 39223     7.75 15720

Lets’s start by naively graphing some of the data. We can take a look at a scatterplot of donors vs year.

Not very informative. Figure 5.4: Not very informative.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = year, y = donors))
p + geom_point()

## Warning: Removed 34 rows containing missing values
## (geom_point).

A message from ggplot warns you about the missing values. We’ll suppress this warning from now on, so that it doesn’t clutter the output, but in general it’s wise to read and understand the warnings that R gives, even when code appears to run properly. If there are a large number of warnings, R will collect them all and invite you to view them with the warnings() function.

We could use geom_line() to plot each country’s time series, like we did with the gapminder data. To do that, remember, we need to tell ggplot what the grouping variable is. This time we can also facet the figure by country, as we do not have too many of them.

A faceted line plot. Figure 5.5: A faceted line plot.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = year, y = donors))
p + geom_line(aes(group = country)) + facet_wrap(~ country)

By default the facets are ordered alphabetically by country. We will see how to change this momentarily.

Let’s focus on the country-level variation, but without paying attention to the time trend. We can use geom_boxplot() to get a picture of variation by year across countries. Just as geom_bar() by default calculates a count of observations by the category you map to x, the stat_boxplot() function that works with geom_boxplot() will calculate a number of statistics that allow the box and whiskers to be drawn. We tell geom_boxplot() the variable we want to categorize by (here, country) and the continuous variable we want summarized (here, donors)

A first attempt at boxplots by country. Figure 5.6: A first attempt at boxplots by country.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = country, y = donors))
p + geom_boxplot()

The boxplots look interesting but two issues could be addressed. First, as we saw in the previous chapter, it is awkward to have the country names on the x-axis because the labels will overlap. We use coord_flip() again to switch the axes (but not the mappings).

Moving the countries to the y-axis. Figure 5.7: Moving the countries to the y-axis.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = country, y = donors))
p + geom_boxplot() + coord_flip()

That’s more legible but still not ideal. We generally want our plots to present data in some meaningful order. An obvious way is to have the countries listed from high to low average donation rate. We accomplish this by reordering the country variable by the mean of donors. The reorder() function will do this for us. It takes two required arguments. The first is the categorical variable or factor that we want to reorder. In this case, that’s country. The second is the variable we want to reorder it by. Here that is the donation rate, donors. The third and optional argument to reorder() is the function you want to use as a summary statistic. If you only give reorder() the first two required arguments, then by default it will reorder the categories of your first variable by the mean value of the second. You can name any sensible function you like to reorder the categorical variable (e.g., median, or sd). There is one additional wrinkle. In R, the default mean function will fail with an error if there are missing values in the variable you are trying to take the average of. You must say that it is OK to remove the missing values when calculating the mean. This is done by supplying the na.rm=TRUE argument to reorder(), which internally passes that argument on to mean(). We are reordering the variable we are mapping to the x aesthetic, so we use reorder() at that point in our code:

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = reorder(country, donors, na.rm=TRUE),
                          y = donors))
p + geom_boxplot() +
    labs(x=NULL) +

Boxplots reordered by mean donation rate. Figure 5.8: Boxplots reordered by mean donation rate.

Because it’s obvious what the country names are, in the labs() call we set their axis label to empty with labs(x=NULL). Ggplot offers some variants on the basic boxplot, including the violin plot. Try it with geom_violin(). There are also numerous arguments that control the finer details of the boxes and whiskers, including their width. Boxplots can also take color and fill aesthetic mappings like other geoms.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = reorder(country, donors, na.rm=TRUE),
                          y = donors, fill = world))
p + geom_boxplot() + labs(x=NULL) +
    coord_flip() + theme(legend.position = "top")

Figure 5.9: A boxplot with the fill aesthetic mapped.

A boxplot with the fill aesthetic mapped.

Putting categorical variables on the y-axis to compare their distributions is a very useful trick. Its makes it easy to effectively present summary data on more categories. The plots can be quite compact and fit a relatively large number of cases in by row. The approach also has the advantage of putting the variable being compared onto the x-axis, which sometimes makes it easier to compare across categories. If the number of observations within each categoriy is relatively small, we can skip (or supplement) the boxplots and show the individual observations, too. In this next example we map the world variable to color instead of fill as the default geom_point() plot shape has a color attribute, but not a fill.

Using points instead of a boxplot. Figure 5.10: Using points instead of a boxplot.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = reorder(country, donors, na.rm=TRUE),
                          y = donors, color = world))
p + geom_point() + labs(x=NULL) +
    coord_flip() + theme(legend.position = "top")

When we use geom_point() like this, there is some overplotting of observations. In these cases, it can be useful to perturb the data just a little bit in order to get a better sense of how many observations there are at different values. We use geom_jitter() to do this. This geom works much like geom_point(), but randomly nudges each observation by a small amount.

Jittering the points. Figure 5.11: Jittering the points.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = reorder(country, donors, na.rm=TRUE),
                          y = donors, color = world))
p + geom_jitter() + labs(x=NULL) +
    coord_flip() + theme(legend.position = "top")

The default amount of jitter is a little too much for our purposes. We can control it using height and width arguments to a position_jitter() function within the geom. Because we’re making a one-dimensional summary here, we just need width.Can you see why we did not use height? If not, try it and see what happens.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = reorder(country, donors, na.rm=TRUE),
                          y = donors, color = world))
p + geom_jitter(position = position_jitter(width=0.15)) +
    labs(x=NULL) + coord_flip() + theme(legend.position = "top")

Figure 5.12: A jittered plot.

A jittered plot.

When we want to summarize a categorical variable that just has one point per category, we should use this approach as well. The result will be a Cleveland dotplot, a simple and extremely effective method of presenting data that is usually better than either a bar chart or a table. For example, we can make a Cleveland dotplot of the average donation rate.

This also gives us another opportunity to do a little bit of data munging with a dplyr pipeline. We will use one to aggregate our larger country-year data frame to a smaller table of summary statistics by country. There is more than one way to do pipeline this task. We could choose the variables we want to summarize and then repeatedly use the mean() and sd() functions to calculate the means and standard deviations of the variables we want. We will again use the pipe operator, %>%, to do our work:

by_country <- organdata %>% group_by(consent_law, country) %>%
    summarize(donors_mean= mean(donors, na.rm = TRUE),
              donors_sd = sd(donors, na.rm = TRUE),
              gdp_mean = mean(gdp, na.rm = TRUE),
              health_mean = mean(health, na.rm = TRUE),
              roads_mean = mean(roads, na.rm = TRUE),
              cerebvas_mean = mean(cerebvas, na.rm = TRUE))

The pipeline consists of two steps. First we group the data by consent_law and country, and then use summarize() to create six new variables, each one of which is the mean or standard deviation of each country’s score on a corresponding variable in the original organdata data frame.For an alternative view, change country to year in the grouping statement and see what happens.

As usual, summarize() step, will inherit information about the original data and the grouping, and then do its calculations at the innermost grouping level. In this case it takes all the observations for each country and calculates the mean or standard deviation as requested. Here is what the resulting object looks like:


## # A tibble: 17 x 8
## # Groups:   consent_law [?]
##    consent_law country        donors_mean donors_sd gdp_mean health_mean roads_mean cerebvas_mean
##    <chr>       <chr>                <dbl>     <dbl>    <dbl>       <dbl>      <dbl>         <dbl>
##  1 Informed    Australia             10.6     1.14     22179        1958      105             558
##  2 Informed    Canada                14.0     0.751    23711        2272      109             422
##  3 Informed    Denmark               13.1     1.47     23722        2054      102             641
##  4 Informed    Germany               13.0     0.611    22163        2349      113             707
##  5 Informed    Ireland               19.8     2.48     20824        1480      118             705
##  6 Informed    Netherlands           13.7     1.55     23013        1993       76.1           585
##  7 Informed    United Kingdom        13.5     0.775    21359        1561       67.9           708
##  8 Informed    United States         20.0     1.33     29212        3988      155             444
##  9 Presumed    Austria               23.5     2.42     23876        1875      150             769
## 10 Presumed    Belgium               21.9     1.94     22500        1958      155             594
## 11 Presumed    Finland               18.4     1.53     21019        1615       93.6           771
## 12 Presumed    France                16.8     1.60     22603        2160      156             433
## 13 Presumed    Italy                 11.1     4.28     21554        1757      122             712
## 14 Presumed    Norway                15.4     1.11     26448        2217       70.0           662
## 15 Presumed    Spain                 28.1     4.96     16933        1289      161             655
## 16 Presumed    Sweden                13.1     1.75     22415        1951       72.3           595
## 17 Presumed    Switzerland           14.2     1.71     27233        2776       96.4           424

As before, the variables specified in group_by() are retained in the new data frame, the variables created with summarize() are added, and all the other variables in the original data are dropped. The countries are also summarized alphabetically within consent_law, which was the outermost grouping variable in the group_by() statement at the start of the pipeline.

Using our pipeline this way is reasonable, but the code is worth looking at again. For one thing, we have to repeatedly type out the names of the mean() and sd() functions and give each of them the name of the variable we want summarized and the na.rm = TRUE argument each time to make sure the functions don’t complain about missing values. We also repeatedly name our new summary variables in the same way, by adding _mean or _sd to the end of the original variable name. If we wanted to calculate the mean and standard deviation for all the numerical variables in organdata, our code would get even longer. Plus, in this version we lose the other, time-invariant categorical variables that we haven’t grouped by, such as world. When we see repeated actions like this in our code, we can ask whether there’s a better way to proceed.

There is. What we would like to do is apply the mean() and sd() functions to every numerical variable in organdata, but only the numerical ones. Then we want to name the results in a consistent way, and return a summary table including all the categorical variables like world. We can create a better version of the by_country object using a little bit of R’s functional programming abilities. Here is the code:

by_country <- organdata %>% group_by(consent_law, country) %>%
    summarize_if(is.numeric, funs(mean, sd), na.rm = TRUE) %>%

The pipeline starts off just as before, taking organdata and then grouping it by consent_law and country. In the next step, though, instead of manually taking the mean and standard deviation of a subset of variables, we use the summarize_if() function instead. As its name suggests, it examines each column in our data and applies a test to it. It only summarizes if the test is passed, that is, if it returns a value of TRUE.We do not have to use parentheses when naming the functions inside summarize_if(). Here the test is the function is.numeric(), which looks to see if a vector is a numeric value or not. If it is, then summarize_if() will apply the summary function or functions we want to organdata. Because we are taking both the mean and the standard deviation, we use funs() to list the functions we want to use. And we finish with the na.rm = TRUE argument, which will be passed on to each use of both mean() and sd(). In the last step in the pipeline we ungroup() the dataSometimes graphing functions can get confused by grouped tibbles where we don’t explicitly use the groups in the plot., so that the result is a plain tibble.

Here is what the pipeline returns:


## # A tibble: 17 x 28
##    consent_law country        donors_mean pop_mean pop_dens_mean gdp_mean gdp_lag_mean health_mean
##    <chr>       <chr>                <dbl>    <dbl>         <dbl>    <dbl>        <dbl>       <dbl>
##  1 Informed    Australia             10.6    18318         0.237    22179        21779        1958
##  2 Informed    Canada                14.0    29608         0.297    23711        23353        2272
##  3 Informed    Denmark               13.1     5257        12.2      23722        23275        2054
##  4 Informed    Germany               13.0    80255        22.5      22163        21938        2349
##  5 Informed    Ireland               19.8     3674         5.23     20824        20154        1480
##  6 Informed    Netherlands           13.7    15548        37.4      23013        22554        1993
##  7 Informed    United Kingdom        13.5    58187        24.0      21359        20962        1561
##  8 Informed    United States         20.0   269330         2.80     29212        28699        3988
##  9 Presumed    Austria               23.5     7927         9.45     23876        23415        1875
## 10 Presumed    Belgium               21.9    10153        30.7      22500        22096        1958
## 11 Presumed    Finland               18.4     5112         1.51     21019        20763        1615
## 12 Presumed    France                16.8    58056        10.5      22603        22211        2160
## 13 Presumed    Italy                 11.1    57360        19.0      21554        21195        1757
## 14 Presumed    Norway                15.4     4386         1.35     26448        25769        2217
## 15 Presumed    Spain                 28.1    39666         7.84     16933        16584        1289
## 16 Presumed    Sweden                13.1     8789         1.95     22415        22094        1951
## 17 Presumed    Switzerland           14.2     7037        17.0      27233        26931        2776
## # ... with 20 more variables: health_lag_mean <dbl>, pubhealth_mean <dbl>, roads_mean <dbl>,
## #   cerebvas_mean <dbl>, assault_mean <dbl>, external_mean <dbl>, txp_pop_mean <dbl>,
## #   donors_sd <dbl>, pop_sd <dbl>, pop_dens_sd <dbl>, gdp_sd <dbl>, gdp_lag_sd <dbl>,
## #   health_sd <dbl>, health_lag_sd <dbl>, pubhealth_sd <dbl>, roads_sd <dbl>, cerebvas_sd <dbl>,
## #   assault_sd <dbl>, external_sd <dbl>, txp_pop_sd <dbl>

All the numeric variables have been summarized. They are named using the original variable, with the function’s name appended: donors_mean and donors_sd, and so on. This is a compact way to rapidly transform our data in various ways. There is a family of summarize_ functions for various tasks, and a complementary group of mutate_ functions for when we want to add columns to the data rather than aggregated it.

With our data summarized by country, we can draw a dotplot with geom_point(). Let’s also color the results by the consent law for each country.

A Cleveland dotplot, with colored points. Figure 5.13: A Cleveland dotplot, with colored points.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = donors_mean, y = reorder(country, donors_mean),
                          color = consent_law))
p + geom_point(size=3) +
    labs(x = "Donor Procurement Rate",
         y = "", color = "Consent Law") +

Alternatively, if we liked, we could use a facet instead of coloring the points. Using facet_wrap() we can split the consent_law variable into two panels, and then rank the countries by donation rate within each panel. Because we have a categorical variable on our y-axis, there are two wrinkles worth noting. First, if we leave facet_wrap() to its defaults, the panels will be plotted side by side. This will make it difficult to compare the two groups on the same scale. Instead the plot will be read left to right, which is not useful. To avoid this, we will have the panels appear one on top of the other by saying we only want toq have one column. This is the ncol=1 argument. Second, and again because we have a categorical variable on the y-axis, the default facet plot will have the names of every country appear on the y-axis of both panels. (Were the y-axis a continuous variable this would be the what we would want.) In that case, only half the rows in each panel of our plot will have points in them.

To avoid this we allow the y-axes scale to be free. This is the scales="free_y" argument. Again, for faceted plots where both variables are continuous, we generally do not want the scales to be free, because it allows the x- or y-axis for each panel to vary with the range of the data inside that panel only, instead of the range across the whole dataset. Ordinarily, the point of small-multiple facets is to be able to compare across the panels. This means free scales are usually not a good idea, because each panel gets its own x- or y-axis range, which breaks comparability. But where one axis is categorical, as here, we can free the categorical axis and leave the continuous one fixed. The result is that each panel shares the same x-axis, and it is easy to compare between them.

A faceted dotplot with free scales on the y-axis. Figure 5.14: A faceted dotplot with free scales on the y-axis.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = donors_mean,
                          y = reorder(country, donors_mean)))

p + geom_point(size=3) +
    facet_wrap(~ consent_law, scales = "free_y", ncol = 1) +
    labs(x= "Donor Procurement Rate",
         y= "") 

Cleveland dotplots are generally preferred to bar or column charts. When making them, put the categories on the y-axis and order them in the way that is most relevant to the numerical summary you are providing. This sort of plot is also an excellent way to summarize model results or any data with with error ranges. We use geom_point() to draw our dotplots. There is a geom called geom_dotplot(), but it is designed to produce a different sort of figure. It is a kind of histogram, with individual observations represented by dots that are then stacked on top of one another to show how many of them there are.

The Cleveland-style dotplot can be extended to cases where we want to include some information about variance or error in the plot. Using geom_pointrange(), we can tell ggplot to show us a point estimate and a range around it. Here we will use the standard deviation of the donation rate that we calculated above. But this is also the natural way to present, for example, estimates of model coefficients with confidence intervals. With geom_pointrange() we map our x and y variables as usual, but the function needs a little more information than geom_point. It needs to know the range of the line to draw on either side of the point, defined by the arguments ymax and ymin. This is given by the y value (donors_mean) plus or minus its standard deviation (donors_sd). If a function argument expects a number, it is OK to give it a mathematical expression that resolves to the number you want. R will calculate the result for you.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country, mapping = aes(x = reorder(country,
              donors_mean), y = donors_mean))

p + geom_pointrange(mapping = aes(ymin = donors_mean - donors_sd,
       ymax = donors_mean + donors_sd)) +
     labs(x= "", y= "Donor Procurement Rate") + coord_flip()

Figure 5.15: A dot-and-whisker plot, with the range defined by the standard deviation of the measured variable.

A dot-and-whisker plot, with the range defined by the standard deviation of the measured variable.

Because geom_pointrange() expects y, ymin, and ymax as arguments, we map donors_mean to y and the ccode variable to x, then flip the axes at the end with coord_flip().

5.3 Plot text directly

It can sometimes be useful to plot the labels along with the points in a scatterplot, or just plot informative labels directly. We can do this with geom_text().

Plotting labels and text. Figure 5.16: Plotting labels and text.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = roads_mean, y = donors_mean))
p + geom_point() + geom_text(mapping = aes(label = country))

The text is plotted right on top of the points, because both are positioned using the same x and y mapping. One way of dealing with this, often the most effective if we are not too worried about excessive precision in the graph, is to remove the points by dropping geom_point() from the plot. A second option is to adjust the position of the text. We can left- or right-justify the labels using the hjust argument to geom_text(). Setting hjust=0 will left justify the label, and hjust=1 will right justify it.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = roads_mean, y = donors_mean))

p + geom_point() + geom_text(mapping = aes(label = country), hjust = 0)

You might be tempted to try different values to hjust to fine-tune your labels. But this is not a robust approach. It will often fail because the space is added in proportion to the length of the label. The result is that longer labels move further away from their points than you want. There are ways around this, but they introduce other problems.

Plot points and text labels, with a horizontal position adjustment. Figure 5.17: Plot points and text labels, with a horizontal position adjustment.

Instead of wrestling any further with geom_text(), we will use ggrepel instead. This very useful library adds some new geoms to ggplot. Just as ggplot extends the plotting capabilities of R, there are many small libraries that extend the capabilities of ggplot, often by providing some new type of geom. The ggrepel library provides geom_text_repel() and geom_label_repel(), two geoms that can pick out labels much more flexibly than the default geom_text(). First, make sure the library is installed, then load it in the usual way:


We will use geom_text_repel() instead of geom_text(). To demonstrate some of what geom_text_repel() can do, we will switch datasets and work with some historical U.S. presidential election data provided in the socviz library.

elections_historic %>% select(2:7) 

## # A tibble: 49 x 6
##     year winner                 win_party ec_pct popular_pct popular_margin
##    <int> <chr>                  <chr>      <dbl>       <dbl>          <dbl>
##  1  1824 John Quincy Adams      D.-R.      0.322       0.309        -0.104 
##  2  1828 Andrew Jackson         Dem.       0.682       0.559         0.122 
##  3  1832 Andrew Jackson         Dem.       0.766       0.547         0.178 
##  4  1836 Martin Van Buren       Dem.       0.578       0.508         0.142 
##  5  1840 William Henry Harrison Whig       0.796       0.529         0.0605
##  6  1844 James Polk             Dem.       0.618       0.495         0.0145
##  7  1848 Zachary Taylor         Whig       0.562       0.473         0.0479
##  8  1852 Franklin Pierce        Dem.       0.858       0.508         0.0695
##  9  1856 James Buchanan         Dem.       0.588       0.453         0.122 
## 10  1860 Abraham Lincoln        Rep.       0.594       0.396         0.101 
## # ... with 39 more rows

p_title <- "Presidential Elections: Popular & Electoral College Margins"
p_subtitle <- "1824-2016"
p_caption <- "Data for 2016 are provisional."
x_label <- "Winner's share of Popular Vote"
y_label <- "Winner's share of Electoral College Votes"

p <- ggplot(elections_historic, aes(x = popular_pct, y = ec_pct,
                                    label = winner_label))

p + geom_hline(yintercept = 0.5, size = 1.4, color = "gray80") +
    geom_vline(xintercept = 0.5, size = 1.4, color = "gray80") +
    geom_point() +
    geom_text_repel() +
    scale_x_continuous(labels = scales::percent) +
    scale_y_continuous(labels = scales::percent) +
    labs(x = x_label, y = y_label, title = p_title, subtitle = p_subtitle,
         caption = p_caption)

Figure 5.18 takes each U.S. presidential election since 1824 (the first year that the size of the popular vote was recorded), and plots the winner’s share of the popular vote against the winner’s share of the electoral college vote. The shares are stored in the data as proportions (from 0 to 1) rather than percentages, so we need to adjust the labels of the scales using scale_x_continuous() and scale_y_continuous(). Seeing as we are interested in particular presidencies, we also want to label the points. ButNormally it is not a good idea to label every point on a plot in the way we do here. A better approach might be to select a few points of particular interest. because many of the data points are plotted quite close together we need to make sure the labels do not overlap with each other, or obscure other points. The geom_text_repel() function handles the problem very well. This plot has relatively long labels. We could put them directly in the code, but just to keep things a bit tidier we assign the text to some named objects instead. Then we use those in the plot formula.

Text labels with ggrepel.

Figure 5.18: Text labels with ggrepel.

In this plot, what is of interest about any particular point is the quadrant of the x-y plane each point it is in, and how far away it is from the fifty percent threshold on both the x-axis (with the popular vote share) and the y-axis (with the electoral college vote share). To underscore this point we draw two reference lines at the fifty percent line in each direction. They are drawn at the beginning of the plotting process so that the points and labels can be layered on top of them. We use two new geoms, geom_hline() and geom_vline() to make the lines. They take yintercept and xintercept arguments, respectively, and the lines can also be sized and colored as you please. There is also a geom_abline() geom that draws straight lines based on a supplied slope and intercept. This is useful for plotting, for example, 45 degree reference lines in scatterplots.

The ggrepel package has several other useful geoms and options to aid with effectively plotting labels along with points. The performance of its labeling algorithm is consistently very good. For many purposes it will be a better first choice than geom_text().

5.4 Label outliers

Sometimes we want to pick out some points of interest in the data without labeling every single item. We can still use geom_text() or geom_text_repel(). We just need to pick out the points we want to label. In the code above, we do this on the fly by telling geom_text_repel() to use a different data set from the one geom_point() is using. We do this using the subset() function.

Top: Labeling text according to a single criterion. Bottom: Labeling according to several criteria.Top: Labeling text according to a single criterion. Bottom: Labeling according to several criteria. Figure 5.19: Top: Labeling text according to a single criterion. Bottom: Labeling according to several criteria.

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = gdp_mean, y = health_mean))

p + geom_point() +
    geom_text_repel(data = subset(by_country, gdp_mean > 25000),
                    mapping = aes(label = country))

p <- ggplot(data = by_country,
            mapping = aes(x = gdp_mean, y = health_mean))

p + geom_point() +
    geom_text_repel(data = subset(by_country,
                                  gdp_mean > 25000 | health_mean < 1500 |
                                  country %in% "Belgium"),
                    mapping = aes(label = country))

In the first figure, we specify a new data argument to the text geom, and use subset() to create a small dataset on the fly. The subset() function takes the by_country object and selects only the cases where gdp_mean is over 25,000, with the result that only those points are labeled in the plot. The criteria we use can be whatever we like, as long as we can write a logical expression that defines it. For example, in the lower figure we pick out cases where gdp_mean is greater than 25,000, or health_mean is less than 1,500, or the country is Belgium. In all of these plots, because we are using geom_text_repel(), we no longer have to worry about our earlier problem where the country labels were clipped at the edge of the plot.

Alternatively, we can pick out specific points by creating a dummy variable in the data set just for this purpose. Here we add a column to organdata called ind. An observation gets coded as TRUE if ccode is “Ita”, or “Spa”, and if the year is greater than 1998. We use this new ind variable in two ways in the plotting code. First, we map it to the color aesthetic in the usual way. Second, we use it to subset the data that the text geom will label. Then we suppress the legend that would otherwise appear for the label and color aesthetics by using the guides() function.

Labeling using a dummy variable. Figure 5.20: Labeling using a dummy variable.

organdata$ind <- organdata$ccode %in% c("Ita", "Spa") &
                    organdata$year > 1998

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads,
                          y = donors, color = ind))
p + geom_point() +
    geom_text_repel(data = subset(organdata, ind),
                    mapping = aes(label = ccode)) +
    guides(label = FALSE, color = FALSE)

5.5 Write and draw in the plot area

Sometimes we want to annotate the figure directly. Maybe we need to point out something important that is not mapped to a variable. We use annotate() for this purpose. It isn’t quite a geom, as it doesn’t accept any variable mappings from our data. Instead, it can use geoms, temporarily taking advantage of their features in order to place something on the plot. The most obvious use-case is putting arbitrary text on the plot.

We will tell annotate() to use a text geom. It hands the plotting duties to geom_text(), which means that we can use all of that geom’s arguments in the annotate() call. This includes the x, y, and label arguments, as one would expect, but also things like size, color, and the hjust and vjust settings that allow text to be justified. This is particularly useful when our label has several lines in it. We include extra lines by using the special “newline” code, \n, which we use instead of a space to force a line-break as needed.

Arbitrary text with <code>annotate()</code>. Figure 5.21: Arbitrary text with annotate().

p <- ggplot(data = organdata, mapping = aes(x = roads, y = donors))
p + geom_point() + annotate(geom = "text", x = 91, y = 33,
                            label = "A surprisingly high \n recovery rate.",
                            hjust = 0)

The annotate() function can work with other geoms, too. Use it to draw rectangles, line segments, and arrows. Just remember to pass along the right arguments to the geom you use. We can add a rectangle to this plot, for instance, with a second call to the function.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads, y = donors))
p + geom_point() +
    annotate(geom = "rect", xmin = 125, xmax = 155,
             ymin = 30, ymax = 35, fill = "red", alpha = 0.2) + 
    annotate(geom = "text", x = 157, y = 33,
             label = "A surprisingly high \n recovery rate.", hjust = 0)

Figure 5.22: Using two different geoms with annotate().

Using two different geoms with <code>annotate()</code>.

5.6 Understanding scales, guides, and themes

This chapter has gradually extended our ggplot vocabulary in two ways. First, we introduced some new geom_ functions that allowed us to draw new kinds of plots. Second, we made use of new functions controlling some aspects of the appearance of our graph. We used scale_x_log10(), scale_x_continuous() and other scale_ functions to adjust axis labels. We used the guides() function to remove the legends for a color mapping and a label mapping. And we also used the theme() function to move the position of a legend from the side to the top of a figure.

Learning about new geoms extended what we have seen already. Each geom makes a different type of plot. Different plots require different mappings in order to work, and so each geom_ function takes mappings tailored to the kind of graph it draws. You can’t use geom_point() to make a scatterplot without supplying an x and a y mapping, for example. Using geom_histogram() only requires you to supply an x mapping. Similarly, geom_pointrange() requires ymin and ymax mappings in order to know where to draw the lineranges it makes. A geom_ function may take optional arguments, too. When using geom_boxplot() you can specify what the outliers look like using arguments like outlier.shape and outlier.color.

The second kind of extension introduced some new functions, and with them some new concepts. What are the differences between the scale_ functions, the guides() function, and the theme() function? When do you know to use one rather than the other? Why are there so many scale_ functions listed in the online help, anyway? How can you tell which one you need?

Here is a rough and ready starting point:

  • Every aesthetic mapping has a scale. If you want to adjust how that scale is marked or graduated, then you use a scale_ function.
  • Many scales come with a legend or key to help the reader interpret the graph. These are called guides. You can make adjustments to them with the guides() function. Perhaps the most common use case is to make the legend disappear, as it is sometimes superfluous. Another is to adjust the arrangement of the key in legends and colorbars.
  • Graphs have other features not strictly connected to the logical structure of the data being displayed. These include things like their background color, the typeface used for labels, or the placement of the legend on the graph. To adjust these, use the theme() function.

Consistent with ggplot’s overall approach, adjusting some visible feature of the graph means first thinking about the relationship that the feature has with the underlying data. Roughly speaking, if the change you want to make will affect the substantive interpretation of any particular geom, then most likely you will either be mapping an aesthetic to a variable using that geom’s aes() function, or you will be specifying a change via some scale_ function. If the change you want to make does not affect the interpretation of a given geom_, then most likely you will either be setting a variable inside the geom_ function, or making a cosmetic change via the theme() function.

Every mapped variable has a scale. Figure 5.23: Every mapped variable has a scale.

Scales and guides are closely connected, which can make things confusing. The guide provides information about the scale, such as in a legend or colorbar. Thus, it is possible to make adjustments to guides from inside the various scale_ functions. More often it is easier to use the guides() function directly.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads,
                          y = donors,
                          color = world))
p + geom_point()

Figure 5.23 shows a plot with three aesthetic mappings. The variable roads is mapped to x; donors is mapped to y; and world is mapped to color. The x and y scales are both continuous, running smoothly from just under the lowest value of the variable to just over the highest value. Various labeled tick marks orient the reader to the values on each axis. The color mapping also has a scale. The world measure is an unordered categorical variable, so its scale is discrete. It takes one of four values, each represented by a different color.

Along with color, mappings like fill, shape, and size will have scales that we might want to customize or adjust. We could have mapped world to shape instead of color. In that case our four-category variable would have a scale consisting of four different shapes. Scales for these mappings may have labels, axis tick marks at particular positions, or specific colors or shapes. If we want to adjust them, we use one of the scale_ functions.

Many different kinds of variable can be mapped. More often than not x and y are continuous measures. But they might also easily be discrete, as when we mapped country names to the y axis in our boxplots and dotplots. An x or y mapping can also be defined as a transformation onto a log scale, or as a special sort of number value like a date. Similarly, a color or a fill mapping can be discrete and unordered, as with our world variable, or discrete and ordered, as with letter grades in an exam. A color or fill mapping can also be a continuous quantity, represented as a gradient running smoothly from a low to a high value. Finally, both continuous gradients and ordered discrete values might have some defined neutral midpoint with extremes diverging in both directions.

A schema for naming the <code>scale</code> functions. Figure 5.24: A schema for naming the scale functions.

Because we have several potential mappings, and each mapping might be to one of several different scales, we end up with a lot of individual scale_ functions. Each deals with one combination of mapping and scale. They are named according to a consistent logic, shown in Figure 5.24. First comes the scale_ name, then the mapping it applies to, and finally the kind of value the scale will display. Thus, the scale_x_continuous() function controls x scales for continuous variables; scale_y_discrete() adjusts y scales for discrete variables; and scale_x_log10() transforms an x mapping to a log scale. Most of the time, ggplot will guess correctly what sort of scale is needed for your mapping. Then it will work out some default features of the scale (such as its labels and where the tick marks go). In many cases you will not need to make any scale adjustments. If x is mapped to a continuous variable then adding + scale_x_continuous() to your plot statement with no further arguments will have no effect. It is already there implicitly. Adding + scale_x_log10(), on the other hand, will transform your scale, as now you have replaced the default treatment of a continuous x variable.

If you want to adjust the labels or tick marks on a scale, you will need to know which mapping it is for and what sort of scale it is. Then you supply the arguments to the appropriate scale function. For example, we can change the x-axis of the previous plot to a log scale, and then also change the position and labels of the tick marks on the y-axis.

Making some scale adjustments. Figure 5.25: Making some scale adjustments.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads,
                          y = donors,
                          color = world))
p + geom_point() +
    scale_x_log10() +
    scale_y_continuous(breaks = c(5, 15, 25),
                       labels = c("Five", "Fifteen", "Twenty Five"))

The same applies to mappings like color and fill. Here the available scale_ functions include ones that deal with continuous, diverging, and discrete variables, as well as others that we will encounter later when we discuss the use of color and color palettes in more detail. When working with a scale that produces a legend, we can also use this its scale_ function to specify the labels in the key. To change the title of the legend, however, we use the labs() function, which lets us label all the mappings.

Relabeling via a scale function. Figure 5.26: Relabeling via a scale function.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads,
                          y = donors,
                          color = world))
p + geom_point() +
    scale_color_discrete(labels =
                             c("Corporatist", "Liberal",
                               "Social Democratic", "Unclassified")) +
    labs(x = "Road Deaths",
         y = "Donor Procurement",
        color = "Welfare State")

If we want to move the legend somewhere else on the plot, we are making a purely cosmetic decision and that is the job of the theme() function. As we have already seen, adding + theme(legend.position = "top") will move the legend as instructed. Finally, to make the legend disappear altogether, we tell ggplot that we do not want a guide for that scale. This is generally not good practice, but there can be good reasons to do it. We will see some examples later on.

p <- ggplot(data = organdata,
            mapping = aes(x = roads,
                          y = donors,
                          color = world))
p + geom_point() +
    labs(x = "Road Deaths",
         y = "Donor Procurement") +
    guides(color = FALSE)

Removing the guide to a scale. Figure 5.27: Removing the guide to a scale.

We will look more closely at scale_ and theme() functions in Chapter 8, when we discuss how to polish plots that we are ready to display or publish. Until then, we will use scale_ functions fairly regularly to make small adjustments to the labels and axes of our graphs. And we will occasionally use the theme() function to make some cosmetic adjustments here and there. So you do not need to worry too much about additional details of how they work until later on. But at this point it is worth knowing what scale_ functions are for, and the logic behind their naming scheme. Understanding the scale_<mapping>_<kind>() rule makes it easier to see what is going on when one of these functions is called to make an adjustment to a plot.

5.7 Where to go next

We covered several new functions and data aggregation techniques in this Chapter. You should practice working with them.

Two figures from Chapter 1.Two figures from Chapter 1. Figure 5.28: Two figures from Chapter 1.

  • The subset() function is very useful when used in conjunction with a series of layered geoms. Go back to your code for the Presidential Elections plot (Figure 5.18) and redo it so that it shows all the data points but only labels elections since 1992. You might need to look again at the elections_historic data to see what variables are available to you. You can also experiment with subsetting by political party, or changing the colors of the points to reflect the winning party.
  • Use geom_point() and reorder() to make a Cleveland dot plot of all Presidential elections, ordered by share of the popular vote.
  • Try using annotate() to add a rectangle that lightly colors the entire upper left quadrant of Figure 5.18.
  • The main action verbs in the dplyr library are group_by(), filter(), select(), summarize(), and mutate(). Practice with them by revisiting the gapminder data to see if you can reproduce a pair of graphs from Chapter One, shown here again in Figure 5.28. You will need to filter some rows, group the data by continent, and calculate the mean life expectancy by continent before beginning the plotting process.
  • Get comfortable with grouping, mutating, and summarizing data in pipelines. This will become a routine task as you work with your data. There are many ways that tables can be aggregated and transformed. Remember group_by() groups your data from left to right, with the rightmost or innermost group being the level calculations will be done at; mutate() adds a column at the current level of grouping; and summarize() aggregates to the next level up. Try creating some grouped objects from the GSS data, calculating frequencies as you learned in this Chapter, and then check to see if the totals are what you expect. For example, start by grouping degree by race, like this:

gss_sm %>% group_by(race, degree) %>%
    summarize(N = n()) %>%
    mutate(pct = round(N / sum(N)*100, 0)) 

## # A tibble: 18 x 4
## # Groups:   race [3]
##    race  degree             N   pct
##    <fct> <fct>          <int> <dbl>
##  1 White Lt High School   197  9.00
##  2 White High School     1057 50.0 
##  3 White Junior College   166  8.00
##  4 White Bachelor         426 20.0 
##  5 White Graduate         250 12.0 
##  6 White <NA>               4  0   
##  7 Black Lt High School    60 12.0 
##  8 Black High School      292 60.0 
##  9 Black Junior College    33  7.00
## 10 Black Bachelor          71 14.0 
## 11 Black Graduate          31  6.00
## 12 Black <NA>               3  1.00
## 13 Other Lt High School    71 26.0 
## 14 Other High School      112 40.0 
## 15 Other Junior College    17  6.00
## 16 Other Bachelor          39 14.0 
## 17 Other Graduate          37 13.0 
## 18 Other <NA>               1  0
  • This code is similar to what you saw earlier, but a little more compact. (We calculate the pct values directly.) Check the results are as you expect by grouping by race and summing the percentages. Try doing the same exercise grouping by sex or region.
  • Try summary calculations with functions other than sum. Can you calculate the mean and median number of children by degree? (Hint: the childs variable in gss_sm has children as a numeric value.)
  • dplyr has a large number of helper functions that let you summarize data in many different ways. The vignette on window functions included with the dplyr documentation is a good place to begin learning about these. You should also look at Chapter 3 of Wickham & Grolemund (2016) for more information on transforming data with dplyr.

  • Experiment with the gapminder data to practice some of the new geoms we have learned. Try examining population or life expectancy over time using a series of boxplots. (Hint: you may need to use the group aesthetic in the aes() call.) Can you facet this boxplot by continent? Is anything different if you create a tibble from gapminder that explicitly groups the data by year and continent first, and then create your plots with that?
  • Read the help page for geom_boxplot() and take a look at the notch and varwidth options. Try them out to see how they change the look of the plot.
  • As an alternative to geom_boxplot() try geom_violin() for a similar plot, but with a mirrored density distribution instead of a box and whiskers.
  • geom_pointrange() is one of a family of related geoms that produce different kinds of error bars and ranges, depending on your specific needs. They include geom_linerange(), geom_crossbar(), and geom_errorbar(). Try them out using gapminder or organdata to see how they differ.