How to Select a Row Based on the Value of a Previous Row in Python

What will you learn?

In this tutorial, you will master the art of selecting rows in Python based on previous row values. This essential skill is crucial for efficient data manipulation, particularly in scenarios involving time series or sequential data analysis.

Introduction to the Problem and Solution

When working with datasets that involve time-ordered or sequential information, it’s common to encounter situations where decisions regarding data selection depend not only on the current row but also on values from preceding rows. For instance, you might need to filter data based on conditions like selecting days with temperatures higher than the previous day.

To address such challenges effectively, we rely on Pandas, a powerful Python library tailored for data manipulation and analysis. By utilizing boolean indexing along with Pandas’ shift() function, we can compare each row against its immediate predecessor. This approach empowers us to establish conditions based on past row values and apply these conditions to filter our dataset intelligently.


import pandas as pd

# Sample DataFrame creation
data = {'Date': ['2021-01-01', '2021-01-02', '2021-01-03', '2021-01-04'],
        'Temperature': [22, 23, 21, 24]}
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Selecting rows where the temperature is higher than the previous day's
condition = df['Temperature'] > df['Temperature'].shift(1)
selected_rows = df[condition]


# Copyright PHD


Here’s a breakdown of how this solution operates: 1. Creating a DataFrame: We begin by generating a sample DataFrame (df) that mirrors our actual dataset. 2. Utilizing shift() Function: The shift(1) function shifts each value in the ‘Temperature’ column down by one position, facilitating comparisons between consecutive rows. 3. Implementing Boolean Indexing: A condition (condition) is formulated to evaluate if each temperature value surpasses its preceding value (now shifted downward). This produces a boolean Series highlighting rows meeting our criteria. 4. Filtering Rows: Finally, we apply this condition back onto our DataFrame (df[condition]), resulting in the selection of rows where temperatures have risen compared to the prior day.

This methodology can be adapted for diverse scenarios necessitating comparisons with earlier row values.

  1. What is Pandas?

  2. Pandas is an open-source library providing high-performance data structures and tools for data analysis within Python.

  3. Can I use this method with other columns or conditions?

  4. Certainly! You can adapt this technique for any column by substituting ‘Temperature’ with your desired column name and adjusting your condition correspondingly.

  5. Is it possible to compare more than one previous row?

  6. Absolutely! By altering shift(1) to shift(n), you can compare against n preceding rows instead of just one.

  7. Does this work solely for numerical comparisons?

  8. Nope! While numeric comparisons are prevalent, you can incorporate string methods or custom functions within your condition based on specific requirements.

  9. How about comparing future values instead?

  10. To assess future rather than past values, employ negative numbers with shift(), such as shift(-1), enabling you to look ahead rather than behind.


Mastering the technique of selecting rows based on previous values is fundamental in data manipulation across various domains. By honing this skill, you enhance your ability to preprocess and analyze data effectively. This guide equips you with a clear understanding and confidence to apply these techniques in your projects.

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