Tutorial Instructions

Percentage Calculations

With modern PostgreSQL, you can calculate complex percentages over different groups in a single pass, using "window functions".

Example Data

Here's our pretend data, a small table of seven musicians who perform in two bands.

CREATE TABLE musicians ( band text, name text, earnings numeric(10,2) ); INSERT INTO musicians VALUES ('PPM', 'Paul', 2.2), ('PPM', 'Peter', 4.5), ('PPM', 'Mary', 1.1), ('CSNY', 'Crosby', 4.2), ('CSNY', 'Stills', 6.3), ('CSNY', 'Nash', 0.3), ('CSNY', 'Young', 2.2);

Percentage Total Earnings per Musician

Back in the "olden days", before WITH statements and window functions, the query might look like this:

SELECT band, name, round(100 * earnings/sums.sum,1) AS percent FROM musicians CROSS JOIN ( SELECT Sum(earnings) FROM musicians ) AS sums ORDER BY percent;

In addition to specific windowing-only functions like `row_number()`, the PostgreSQL aggregate functions can also be used in a windowing mode. So we can re-write the query above like this:

SELECT band, name, round(100 * earnings / Sum(earnings) OVER (), 1) AS percent FROM musicians ORDER BY percent;

Here, we get a sum of all earnings, by using the sum() function with the OVER keyword to indicate a windowing context.

Since we provide no restrictions on OVER the effect is a sum over all rows in the result relation. Which is what we need!

Percentage of Band Earnings per Musician

Percentage earnings over all earnings is only one way to slice up the earnings pie: maybe we want to know which musicians made the most money relative to their band earnings?

Doing this the old fashioned way, the SQL is getting a lot hairier!

WITH sums AS ( SELECT Sum(earnings), band FROM musicians GROUP BY band ) SELECT band, name, round(100 * earnings/sums.sum, 1) AS percent FROM musicians JOIN sums USING (band) ORDER BY band, percent;

With the window function, on the other hand, we just need to change the characteristic of the denominator. Rather than a sum of all earnings, we want the sum calculated per band, which we get by adding a PARTITION to the OVER clause of the window function.

SELECT band, name, round(100 * earnings / Sum(earnings) OVER (PARTITION BY band), 1) AS percent FROM musicians ORDER BY band, percent;

Percentage of Total Earnings per Band

Finally, for completeness, here's the single-scan approach to getting the per-band percentage of total earnings:

SELECT band, round(100 * earnings / Sum(earnings) OVER (), 1) AS percent FROM ( SELECT band, Sum(earnings) AS earnings FROM musicians GROUP BY band ) bands;

Note that I've been forced into using a sub-query here, because embedding a window query within an aggregate is not allowed.

However, if you check the EXPLAIN for this query, you'll find it still only has a single scan of the main data table, which is mostly what we are trying to avoid, since these kind of BI queries are usually run against very large fact tables, and scans are the expensive bit.

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