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Lessons from Sesame Street

1 Mins read

In recent years, early childhood education, designed to improve subsequent life outcomes for students who participate, has received considerable attention. Programs like Perry Preschool, Head Start, universal prekindergarten, and others have taken center stage. Academic research has generally supported the role that early childhood education can play in improving outcomes for disadvantaged chil- dren, as reviewed by Duncan and Magnuson (2013), and that has led to specific proposals from those in the policy community (cf. Cascio and Schanzenbach 2014). Both sides of the political spectrum have promoted its benefits (cf. Council of Economic Advisers 2015 and Stevens 2015).

For all of this attention, it is surprising that perhaps the biggest, yet least costly, early childhood intervention, Sesame Street, has largely been left out of this policy and research conversation. This show initially aired in 1969; its fundamental goal was to reduce the educational deficits experienced by disadvantaged youth based on differences in their preschool environment. It was a smash hit immediately upon its introduction, receiving tremendous critical acclaim and huge ratings.

Source: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2019, 11(1): 318–350

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