12 Skewness and the Mean, Median, and Mode

Consider the following data set. 4; 5; 6; 6; 6; 7; 7; 7; 7; 7; 7; 8; 8; 8; 9; 10

This data set can be represented by following histogram. Each interval has width one, and each value is located in the middle of an interval.

You are watching: For a distribution that is skewed right, which of the following is true?

. The greater the deviation from zero indicates a greater degree of skewness. If the skewness is negative then the distribution is skewed left as in (Figure). A positive measure of skewness indicates right skewness such as (Figure).


The mean is 7.7, the median is 7.5, and the mode is seven. Of the three statistics, the mean is the largest, while the mode is the smallest. Again, the mean reflects the skewing the most.

To summarize, generally if the distribution of data is skewed to the left, the mean is less than the median, which is often less than the mode. If the distribution of data is skewed to the right, the mode is often less than the median, which is less than the mean.

As with the mean, median and mode, and as we will see shortly, the variance, there are mathematical formulas that give us precise measures of these characteristics of the distribution of the data. Again looking at the formula for skewness we see that this is a relationship between the mean of the data and the individual observations cubed.


is the sample standard deviation of the data, , and
is the arithmetic mean and
is the sample size.

Formally the arithmetic mean is known as the first moment of the distribution. The second moment we will see is the variance, and skewness is the third moment. The variance measures the squared differences of the data from the mean and skewness measures the cubed differences of the data from the mean. While a variance can never be a negative number, the measure of skewness can and this is how we determine if the data are skewed right of left. The skewness for a normal distribution is zero, and any symmetric data should have skewness near zero. Negative values for the skewness indicate data that are skewed left and positive values for the skewness indicate data that are skewed right. By skewed left, we mean that the left tail is long relative to the right tail. Similarly, skewed right means that the right tail is long relative to the left tail. The skewness characterizes the degree of asymmetry of a distribution around its mean. While the mean and standard deviation are dimensional quantities (this is why we will take the square root of the variance ) that is, have the same units as the measured quantities , the skewness is conventionally defined in such a way as to make it nondimensional. It is a pure number that characterizes only the shape of the distribution. A positive value of skewness signifies a distribution with an asymmetric tail extending out towards more positive X and a negative value signifies a distribution whose tail extends out towards more negative X. A zero measure of skewness will indicate a symmetrical distribution.

Skewness and symmetry become important when we discuss probability distributions in later chapters.

Chapter Review

Looking at the distribution of data can reveal a lot about the relationship between the mean, the median, and the mode. There are three types of distributions. A right (or positive) skewed distribution has a shape like (Figure). A left (or negative) skewed distribution has a shape like (Figure). A symmetrical distrubtion looks like (Figure).

Formula Review

Formula for skewness: Formula for Coefficient of Variation:


Use the following information to answer the next three exercises: State whether the data are symmetrical, skewed to the left, or skewed to the right.

The data are symmetrical. The median is 3 and the mean is 2.85. They are close, and the mode lies close to the middle of the data, so the data are symmetrical.

See more: An Advantage Of Social Network Advertising Over Traditional Advertising Media Is That _____.

The data are skewed right. The median is 87.5 and the mean is 88.2. Even though they are close, the mode lies to the left of the middle of the data, and there are many more instances of 87 than any other number, so the data are skewed right.