Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Coefficient of Variation (CV)


The Coefficient of Variation (CV) is a statistical measure of the relative variability or dispersion of data points in a data series around the mean. In finance, it’s used to measure the risk-to-reward ratio, by showing the extent of variability in relation to the mean return. It’s calculated as the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean.


Coefficient of Variation (CV): /ˌkoʊɪˈfɪʃənt ʌv ˌvɛəriˈeɪʃən (ˌsiː ˈviː)/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Coefficient of Variation (CV) is a statistical measure that shows the relative variability of data points in a data series, distribution, or set around the mean. It is often used in comparative studies of a series of data because it is dimensionless and is not affected by changes in units of measurements.</li><li>The CV is calculated by dividing the standard deviation by the mean and then multiplying the result by 100. A lower CV indicates that the data points are closer to the mean, indicating less variability or dispersion. On the other hand, a higher CV signals a higher degree of dispersion around the mean.</li><li>The CV adds context to the standard deviation, enabling the comparison of datasets with different units or wide variances. However, it should be used with caution as it’s not as effective with datasets that contain zero or negative values because it can result in undefined or negative ratios.</li></ol>


The Coefficient of Variation (CV) is a crucial business and finance term because it’s a statistical measurement that helps in understanding the degree of risk or volatility associated with an investment or a portfolio. It allows the comparison of the degree of variation from one data series to another, even if the means are drastically different from each other. CV standardizes the measure of dispersion of a probability distribution and thus enables decision-makers to make sound risk to reward trade-offs. Hence, it provides significant insights into the risk characteristics of different investments, ultimately aiding businesses and investors in determining the consistency or the reliability of investment returns over time, informing their strategic decision-making process.


The Coefficient of Variation (CV) is an essential finance and business term used predominantly in statistical and analytical efforts. The main purpose of using CV is to measure relative variability. It is a standardized measure that helps in understanding the dispersion level of different datasets. In finance and investments, it is particularly useful in risk assessment and risk management. This is because, CV can be used to compare volatility and ascertain the consistency of different investment opportunities or portfolios. Investors use Coefficient of Variation to measure the risk-to-reward ratio when comparing different investment opportunities. CV helps in deciding the right investment by analyzing if the risk assumed is worth the expected return. A lower CV indicates less risk relative to the return while a higher CV denotes higher risk. In the business sector, it is used to identify and analyze operational efficiency by comparing the degree of variability between different business units or product lines. Thus, the Coefficient of Variation (CV) offers a practical approach for decision-making by providing a clear perspective on variability and consistency.


1. Investment Decision: An investor wishes to compare the risk associated with two stocks, A and B. While stock A has a mean return of 12% with a standard deviation of 8%, stock B has a mean return of 15% with a standard deviation of 12%. By calculating CV, the investor can identify which stock is more risky relative to its returns. In this case, the CV of stock A is 0.67 and that of stock B is 0.80. Hence, though stock B has greater returns, it is also higher in risk – a fact that could easily be missed without calculating CV.2. Portfolio Management: A portfolio manager has multiple portfolios to manage. To evaluate their performance, he calculates the coefficient of variation for returns of each portfolio. This gives him insight into the risk associated with each portfolio in relation to the amount of return it’s generating, allowing him to manage his clients’ resources better.3. Manufacturing Performance: A manufacturing plant produces car parts, and they need to ensure the quality of their parts is consistent. They implement a quality check process, where they measure the length of every 100th component produced. The CV will help them determine the reliability of the manufacturing process – a lower CV represents less variability, providing assurance that the production process is under control.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Coefficient of Variation (CV)?

The Coefficient of Variation (CV) is a statistical measure that shows the degree of relative variability within a data set as compared to the mean. It’s used to assess the level of variability or dispersion of data points in a distribution.

How is CV calculated?

The formula for Coefficient of Variation (CV) is CV = (Standard Deviation / Mean) * 100.

In finance and business, what is the purpose of the CV?

The CV is generally used to determine the risk and volatility in business; the lower the CV, the less risk involved. In other words, a higher CV indicates a greater degree of risk.

How does the CV differ from the standard deviation?

The Standard Deviation measures the absolute variability of a distribution, while CV is a relative measure of risk. CV takes into account the dispersion of data with respect to mean.

Can we use the Coefficient of Variation to compare two or more data sets?

Yes, one of the primary uses of the CV is to compare the relative variability of two or more data sets. It provides a standardized measure of dispersion and enables comparison across different scales or units.

What is considered a high or low CV?

It is hard to define a precise threshold for high or low CV, as it often relies on the context of the data set. However, a CV of 25% or higher is usually considered high, indicating a significant amount of variation. Conversely, a CV less than 25% is generally considered low.

Can the Coefficient of Variation be negative?

No, the CV cannot be negative because standard deviation (utilized in the calculation) is always a positive number.

Is the CV applicable to any business or finance data set?

Yes, the CV can be applied to various types of data sets in both business and finance provided that the mean of the data set is not zero since the denominator in the formula for CV is the mean.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More