Is E-Commerce Ending Driving?

A blog about business and economics.
March 4 2012 5:13 PM

Is E-Commerce Ending Driving?

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One very interesting social trend we have going on in the United States right now is the  decline in vehicle miles traveled, which initially looked like a mere recession thing but seems to be continuing even as the economy has added jobs for the past 18 months. Joe Weisenthal was speculating on twitter that online shopping might be the reason. Here's some evidence from that view, a chart that displays real retail and food service sales in red, and the same thing with e-commerce sales stripped out in blue:

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As you can see, the red line shows a recovery and the blue line doesn't. Virtually 100 percent of the rebound in retail sales has come from online shopping, meaning that a certain amount of pre-recession car trips have been permanently replaced by the Internet. On the other hand, delivery trucks count as vehicle miles traveled so I'm not sure how far this line of thinking gets us.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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