Construct pandas DataFrame from items in nested dictionary

Suppose I have a nested dictionary ‘user_dict’ with structure:

  • Level 1: UserId (Long Integer)
  • Level 2: Category (String)
  • Level 3: Assorted Attributes (floats, ints, etc..)

For example, an entry of this dictionary would be:

user_dict[12] = {
    "Category 1": {"att_1": 1, 
                   "att_2": "whatever"},
    "Category 2": {"att_1": 23, 
                   "att_2": "another"}}

each item in user_dict has the same structure and user_dict contains a large number of items which I want to feed to a pandas DataFrame, constructing the series from the attributes. In this case a hierarchical index would be useful for the purpose.

Specifically, my question is whether there exists a way to to help the DataFrame constructor understand that the series should be built from the values of the “level 3” in the dictionary?

If I try something like:

df = pandas.DataFrame(users_summary)

The items in “level 1” (the UserId’s) are taken as columns, which is the opposite of what I want to achieve (have UserId’s as index).

I know I could construct the series after iterating over the dictionary entries, but if there is a more direct way this would be very useful. A similar question would be asking whether it is possible to construct a pandas DataFrame from json objects listed in a file.


A pandas MultiIndex consists of a list of tuples. So the most natural approach would be to reshape your input dict so that its keys are tuples corresponding to the multi-index values you require. Then you can just construct your dataframe using pd.DataFrame.from_dict, using the option orient='index':

user_dict = {12: {'Category 1': {'att_1': 1, 'att_2': 'whatever'},
                  'Category 2': {'att_1': 23, 'att_2': 'another'}},
             15: {'Category 1': {'att_1': 10, 'att_2': 'foo'},
                  'Category 2': {'att_1': 30, 'att_2': 'bar'}}}

pd.DataFrame.from_dict({(i,j): user_dict[i][j] 
                           for i in user_dict.keys() 
                           for j in user_dict[i].keys()},

               att_1     att_2
12 Category 1      1  whatever
   Category 2     23   another
15 Category 1     10       foo
   Category 2     30       bar

An alternative approach would be to build your dataframe up by concatenating the component dataframes:

user_ids = []
frames = []

for user_id, d in user_dict.iteritems():
    frames.append(pd.DataFrame.from_dict(d, orient='index'))

pd.concat(frames, keys=user_ids)

               att_1     att_2
12 Category 1      1  whatever
   Category 2     23   another
15 Category 1     10       foo
   Category 2     30       bar

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