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SPSS eTutor: Crosstabulations

A Brief Guidebook for using SPSS at Empire State College


Constructing and interpreting crosstabs

Univariate analysis provides you information about individual variables.  Bivariate analysis explores relationships between two variables.  Running crosstabulations or “crosstabs” is one way to do this.  A crosstab is a matrix that shows the distribution of one variable for each category of a second variable. Let’s construct a crosstab for 2 variables found in the 2008 (1500 case) General Social Survey (GSS): gender (SEX) and general happiness.

To run a crosstab on SPSS, go to:  Analyze, Descriptive Statistics, Crosstabs

Highlight your dependent variable name, click on arrow pointing toward Row box

Highlight your independent variable name, click on arrow pointing toward Column box.

Your screen should look like this:

Click on Cells and then click the Column percentage box:

Click Continue, then OK. Your output should look like this:

What does this crosstab mean? This is relatively easy to interpret. 28.7% of  males and 29.4% of females claimed that they are very happy.  But what about a crosstab that has many attributes?  For example, what if you wanted to analyze the relationship between the number of children that you have and your general happiness? This is the output for for that analysis:

This is a bit more difficult to determine the relationship between these two variables. You may decide to use correlation for your analysis.

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide or with your SPSS Software,  on the basis of a disability, please contact Accessibility Resources and Services by emailing them at  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website


Creative Commons License


SPSS eTutor by Dee Britton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.