# Chapter 7 Factors with forcats

A common example for textual data is categorical data. An example for this would be the survey question about a person’s marital status (which might take “married,” “widowed,” “separated,” “divorced,” “single”), hence a variable which can take a limited number of values.

In R, so-called factors are used to represent categorical data. In the following, I will briefly introduce you to the forcats package (nice anagram, Hadley!). Factors are augmented vectors which build upon integers. If you want to learn more about them, consider reading this paper.

## 7.1 Creating a factor

You can create a factor in two manners.

1. Take a character vector and coerce it to a factor
parties <- c("AfD", "CDU", "CSU", "FDP", "Greens", "Leftists", "SPD")
parties_fct <- as_factor(parties)

typeof(parties_fct)
## [1] "integer"
1. Create it from scratch by providing levels and a vector respectively
party_sample <- c(sample(parties, 49, replace = TRUE), "CUD")
factor(party_sample, levels = parties)
##  [1] FDP      Leftists Leftists AfD      CDU      CSU      Greens   CSU
##  [9] CSU      AfD      FDP      AfD      AfD      Greens   CSU      CDU
## [17] SPD      CDU      AfD      Leftists CSU      FDP      Leftists AfD
## [25] CSU      SPD      Greens   FDP      SPD      CDU      Greens   SPD
## [33] AfD      AfD      CDU      SPD      CSU      FDP      Greens   SPD
## [41] Greens   CSU      Leftists AfD      CDU      Greens   Greens   FDP
## [49] SPD      <NA>
## Levels: AfD CDU CSU FDP Greens Leftists SPD

If you want to access the levels, use levels()

levels(parties_fct)
## [1] "AfD"      "CDU"      "CSU"      "FDP"      "Greens"   "Leftists" "SPD"

## 7.2 Some basic operations

I will have a further look into factors using data on the presidential elections in the U.S.

election_data <- read_csv("data/pres16results.csv") %>%
drop_na() %>%
glimpse()
## Rows: 18475 Columns: 9
## ── Column specification ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────
## Delimiter: ","
## chr (5): county, fips, cand, st, lead
## dbl (4): pct_report, votes, total_votes, pct
##
## ℹ Use spec() to retrieve the full column specification for this data.
## ℹ Specify the column types or set show_col_types = FALSE to quiet this message.
## Rows: 18,007
## Columns: 9
## $county <chr> "Los Angeles County", "Los Angeles County", "Los Angeles C… ##$ fips        <chr> "6037", "6037", "6037", "6037", "6037", "17031", "17031", …
## $cand <chr> "Hillary Clinton", "Donald Trump", "Gary Johnson", "Jill S… ##$ st          <chr> "CA", "CA", "CA", "CA", "CA", "IL", "IL", "IL", "IL", "TX"…
## $pct_report <dbl> 1.0000, 1.0000, 1.0000, 1.0000, 1.0000, 0.9746, 0.9746, 0.… ##$ votes       <dbl> 1654626, 542591, 56905, 46682, 13471, 1528582, 440213, 559…
## $total_votes <dbl> 2314275, 2314275, 2314275, 2314275, 2314275, 2055215, 2055… ##$ pct         <dbl> 0.714965162, 0.234453987, 0.024588694, 0.020171328, 0.0058…
## \$ lead        <chr> "Hillary Clinton", "Hillary Clinton", "Hillary Clinton", "…

Which variables should be converted to factors? – county, cand, st, lead.

election_data_w_fct <- election_data %>%
mutate(county = as_factor(county),
candidate = as_factor(cand),
state = as_factor(st),
select(county, candidate, state, pct_report:pct, lead)

### 7.2.1 Reordering factors

Sometimes you want to reorder factors – for instance, when you want to create plots. (Note: you will learn more on plots in the next session on data visualization)

election_data_w_fct %>%
group_by(state) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = sum_votes, y = state)) +
geom_point()

Two orders would make sense: alphabetical and according to their number of votes. fct_reorder() takes another variable and orders the factor according to it.

election_data_w_fct %>%
group_by(state) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = sum_votes, y = state)) +
geom_point()

If you want to have it ordered the other way round, multiply the ordering variable with -1:

election_data_w_fct %>%
group_by(state) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = sum_votes, y = state)) +
geom_point()

You could also achieve this by calling fct_rev() afterwards: it reverses the order of the factor.

election_data_w_fct %>%
group_by(state) %>%
fct_rev()) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = sum_votes, y = state)) +
geom_point()

If you want to do bar plots, which you can use to depict the frequency of a value, you can order them according to the frequency they appear in using fct_infreq():

election_data_w_fct %>%
geom_bar()

### 7.2.2 Modifying levels

Remember the first factor? You need to put some graphs together and decide that you would rather like to use the original German names for the parties. Go for fct_recode().

parties_fct_ger <- fct_recode(parties_fct,
"Buendnis90/Die Gruenen" = "Greens",
)

Damn, now the levels are not in alphabetical order anymore.

levels(parties_fct_ger)
## [1] "AfD"                    "CDU"                    "CSU"
## [4] "FDP"                    "Buendnis90/Die Gruenen" "Die Linke"
## [7] "SPD"

In this case, this can be done pretty quickly. Just copy the levels and manipulate the order:

parties_fct_ger_alphabetical <- fct_relevel(parties_fct_ger,
c("AfD",
"Buendnis90/Die Gruenen",
"CDU",
"CSU",
"FDP",
"SPD"))
levels(parties_fct_ger_alphabetical)
## [1] "AfD"                    "Buendnis90/Die Gruenen" "CDU"
## [4] "CSU"                    "Die Linke"              "FDP"
## [7] "SPD"

Now you need to write something for someone who is not particular familiar with the political landscape in Germany and rather wants “left,” “center,” and “right” instead of the party’s names. Give fct_collapse() a shot – and feel free to change it if you disagree with my classification.

lcr_ger <- fct_collapse(parties_fct,
left = c("Leftists", "Greens", "SPD"),
centre = c("CDU", "CSU", "FDP"),
right = c("AfD")
)

Another thing you could do – and this is handy for the election data set – is collapsing things together according to their frequency of appearance. In the case of the election data set, this might be handy to lump together the candidates into three groups: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and other.

election_data_w_fct %>%
mutate(candidate = fct_lump(candidate, n = 2))
## # A tibble: 18,007 × 8
##    <fct>       <fct>        <fct>      <dbl>  <dbl>       <dbl>   <dbl> <fct>
##  1 Los Angele… Hillary Cli… CA         1     1.65e6     2314275 0.715   Hillary…
##  2 Los Angele… Donald Trump CA         1     5.43e5     2314275 0.234   Hillary…
##  3 Los Angele… Gary Johnson CA         1     5.69e4     2314275 0.0246  Hillary…
##  4 Los Angele… Other        CA         1     4.67e4     2314275 0.0202  Hillary…
##  5 Los Angele… Other        CA         1     1.35e4     2314275 0.00582 Hillary…
##  6 Cook County Hillary Cli… IL         0.975 1.53e6     2055215 0.744   Hillary…
##  7 Cook County Donald Trump IL         0.975 4.40e5     2055215 0.214   Hillary…
##  8 Cook County Gary Johnson IL         0.975 5.59e4     2055215 0.0272  Hillary…
##  9 Cook County Other        IL         0.975 3.05e4     2055215 0.0149  Hillary…
## 10 Harris Cou… Hillary Cli… TX         1     7.06e5     1302887 0.542   Hillary…
## # … with 17,997 more rows

The problem here is that Gary Johnson appears as often as the two other candidates (have you ever heard of him?). Hence, fct_lump() cannot decide which levels to lump together. However, it has saved me a couple lines of code:

election_data_w_fct %>%
mutate(candidate = fct_lump(candidate, n = 2) %>% fct_recode("Other" = "Gary Johnson"))
## # A tibble: 18,007 × 8
## # … with 17,997 more rows