Coefficient of Variation Calculator

Use this online calculator to calculate the coefficient of variation (CV, RSD) of continuous data or binomial (rate, proportion) data.

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Using the coefficient of variation calculator

Start by selecting if you are going to enter summary data: standard deviation and mean / proportion, or if you prefer to enter raw data. If entering raw data you need to choose between continuous data, which you can enter manually or copy/paste from a spreadsheet, and proportions data for which you only need to know the proportion / rate, or the number of events and the total population. It is often used as a measure for economic inequality, although there is some criticism to its utilization in such a manner 1.

Once these are entered, just press "Calculate" and our coefficient of variation calculator will do the rest.

What is coefficient of variation

The coefficient of variation (abbreviated "CV"), also known as relative standard deviation (RSD) is a term from probability theory and statistics representing a standardized measure of dispersion of a probability or frequency. It is often expressed as a percentage and is widely used in analytical chemistry, engineering and physics, factory production quality assurance. It is also often used in economists and social studies for economic, organizational and financial models.

The CV is a dimensionless number, so it is not dependent on the unit of measurement or the mean of the data.

The major advantages usually cited in favor of using the coefficient of variation instead of the standard deviation are [1]:

  • it is insensitive to the scale of the measured variable(s), and this scale-invariance makes cross-unit comparisons easier
  • it allows to compare differences across groups with significantly different means (relative magnitude of effects)

There are, however, disadvantages to using relative standard deviation instead of the absolute one. For one, it cannot be used to construct confidence intervals for the mean. When the mean is close to zero, the CV approaches infinity, making it very sensitive to small changes in the mean. It is also a poor statistic when the number of observations in the different groups varies, since the CV is invariant to the sample sizes. The standard error of the mean is generally a superior alternative in such cases.

Formula for coefficient of variation

The coefficient of variation is the ratio between the inverse of the mean and the standard deviation:

CV = σ / μ

where σ is the sample standard deviation and μ is the sample mean. The CV is usually estimated from a sample, but when the population standard deviation is known, it can be used instead. The formula above is used in our calculator, assuming the raw data entered is a sample from which the σ is estimated.


[1] Sørensen J.B. (2002) "The Use and Misuse of the Coefficient of Variation in Organizational Demography Research", Sociological Methods & Research 30:475-491

Cite this calculator & page

If you'd like to cite this online calculator resource and information as provided on the page, you can use the following citation:
Georgiev G.Z., "Coefficient of Variation Calculator", [online] Available at: URL [Accessed Date: 22 Jun, 2018].