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MySQL Cookbook by Paul DuBois

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Calculating Differences Between Successive Rows

Problem

You have a table containing successive cumulative values in its rows and you want to compute the differences between pairs of successive rows.

Solution

Use a self-join that matches up pairs of adjacent rows and calculates the differences between members of each pair.

Discussion

Self-joins are useful when you have a set of absolute (or cumulative) values that you want to convert to relative values representing the differences between successive pairs of rows. For example, if you take an automobile trip and write down the total miles traveled at each stopping point, you can compute the difference between successive points to determine the distance from one stop to the next. Here is such a table that shows the stops for a trip from San Antonio, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin. Each row shows the total miles driven as of each stop:

mysql> SELECT seq, city, miles FROM trip_log ORDER BY seq;
+-----+------------------+-------+
| seq | city             | miles |
+-----+------------------+-------+
|   1 | San Antonio, TX  |     0 |
|   2 | Dallas, TX       |   263 |
|   3 | Benton, AR       |   566 |
|   4 | Memphis, TN      |   745 |
|   5 | Portageville, MO |   878 |
|   6 | Champaign, IL    |  1164 |
|   7 | Madison, WI      |  1412 |
+-----+------------------+-------+

A self-join can convert these cumulative values to successive differences that represent the distances from each city to the next. The following query shows how to use the sequence numbers in the records to match up pairs of successive rows ...

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