· r-2

R: dplyr - Update rows with earlier/previous rows values

Recently I had a data frame which contained a column which had mostly empty values:


> data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3,4,5), col2  = c("a", NA, NA , "b", NA))
  col1 col2
1    1    a
2    2 <NA>
3    3 <NA>
4    4    b
5    5 <NA>

I wanted to fill in the NA values with the last non NA value from that column. So I want the data frame to look like this:


1    1    a
2    2    a
3    3    a
4    4    b
5    5    b

I spent ages searching around before I came across the na.locf function in the zoo library which does the job:


library(zoo)
library(dplyr)

> data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3,4,5), col2  = c("a", NA, NA , "b", NA)) %>% 
    do(na.locf(.))
  col1 col2
1    1    a
2    2    a
3    3    a
4    4    b
5    5    b

This will fill in the missing values for every column, so if we had a third column with missing values it would populate those too:


> data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3,4,5), col2  = c("a", NA, NA , "b", NA), col3 = c("A", NA, "B", NA, NA)) %>% 
    do(na.locf(.))

  col1 col2 col3
1    1    a    A
2    2    a    A
3    3    a    B
4    4    b    B
5    5    b    B

If we only want to populate 'col2' and leave 'col3' as it is we can apply the function specifically to that column:


> data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3,4,5), col2  = c("a", NA, NA , "b", NA), col3 = c("A", NA, "B", NA, NA)) %>% 
    mutate(col2 = na.locf(col2))
  col1 col2 col3
1    1    a    A
2    2    a <NA>
3    3    a    B
4    4    b <NA>
5    5    b <NA>

It's quite a neat function and certainly comes in helpful when cleaning up data sets which don't tend to be as uniform as you'd hope!

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