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More data suggest that e-commerce sales are larger than thought

Another report that e-commerce is larger than thought
Schuylkill Mall, Frackville, PA. Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty

Last week we reported that government data may be seriously understating the scale of e-commerce. Now a paper sent by an FoW reader reinforces the appearance of a hugely underestimated e-commerce sector.

David Evans, chairman of Global Economics Group, and Richard Schmalensee, former dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management, say in their 2016 paper that e-commerce is a third larger than reported by U.S. Census data. By 2016, they said, it had been undercounted for five straight years. The Census Bureau has challenged their data, but they say the larger point still stands.