I am trying to merge a .csv file with a .shp file. The shapefile has more information that I need so I also want to limit it by only adding information for the counties in my csv file. I tried my code based on a response to a similar question posted here but received an error. Once I merge them, I would like to make it a shapefile. Here is my code:


county_info <- read.csv("/path/county_info.csv")
county_shape <- readShapePoly("/path/county_shape.shp")
data <- merge(county_info, county_shape, by="GEOID", all.x=TRUE)
data <- shapefile(data, "/path")

The error I receive is:

Error in (function (classes, fdef, mtable) : unable to find an inherited method for function ‘shapefile’ for signature ‘"data.frame"’
  • Without giving an answer to your problem, I advise you to switch to the sf package for vector handling. Much more fun
    – Bernd V.
    Dec 5, 2019 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


As aldo_tapia suggests, sf is a great improvement upon the foundation of sp. I would comment if my reputation permitted it.

As for learning sf, the entire Geocomputation with R textbook is available online at https://geocompr.robinlovelace.net/. Everything makes a lot of sense from a traditional R dataframe perspective, and it is dplyr compliant.

That being said, if you are deadset on using sp, you could always access the associated data with county_shape@data, and then merge with your csv. It's ugly and error-prone, but I've definitely done it in the past.


county_info <- read.csv("/path/county_info.csv")
county_shape <- readShapePoly("/path/county_shape.shp")

county_shape@data <- merge(county_info, county_shape@data, by="GEOID", all.x=TRUE)

That being said, learn sf instead of you have the time. Someone else can probably explain in detail why the above is a bad idea!


Laura, as Bernd V. suggested, you can use sf for vector management. In this case, use it with dplyr for merging different objects:


county_info <- read.csv("/path/county_info.csv")
county_shape <- read_sf("/path/county_shape.shp")
county_info %>% full_join(y = county_shape, by = 'GEOID') %>%
                st_as_sf() %>%

There are different merging methods, like inner_join, left_join, full_join, and so on. Check dplyr package documentation for more info.

  • Thank you for your response. I tried your suggestion but received about another error: Error in UseMethod("tbl_vars") : no applicable method for 'tbl_vars' applied to an object of class "c('SpatialPolygonsDataFrame', 'SpatialPolygons', 'Spatial', 'SpatialVector')" Do you know why this is?
    – Laura
    Dec 5, 2019 at 19:41
  • That raised up because you're using a sp object, not a sf object. You can convert it with st_as_sf or load it with read_sf function
    – aldo_tapia
    Dec 5, 2019 at 19:47

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