Many young kids who watched ‘Sesame Street’ performed better in school, study says

Maybe the show really IS that good

Some of the "Sesame Street" characters, including Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO).
Some of the "Sesame Street" characters, including Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO).

If you’ve listened closely to the dialogue on “Sesame Street” in recent years, you might have thought to yourself, “Man, this is on point. Here’s a show that really gets it.”

As it turns out, it does: The creators of "Sesame Street" truly made a difference in children's lives, for those who had access to the show growing up. A study -- which was first written in 2015 but more recently published in the American Economic Journal, called "Early Childhood Education by Television: Lessons from Sesame Street" -- is comparing the educational and professional achievements of kids who were around the show, to the achievements of children who weren't.

So if you're thinking to yourself, "I got good grades!" or "I have a really good job! I watched the show!" then "Sesame Street" might have had a hand in that -- really.

Looking at the numbers

The study, by researchers Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine, specifically looked into whether a child's access to "Sesame Street" before turning age 7 affected performance in elementary school and long-term outcomes in education and the job market. The popular TV show debuted Nov. 10, 1969. And yes, Kearney and Levine found that kids with access to the show had improved school performance.

Kearney and Levine examined many factors in their research: who had access to high- or low-quality TV signals, who was around the show, then assessed kids based on things like what grade level they operated at, and later on, whether they went on to graduate college. It's a fascinating idea that you should read in full if you're curious, because the study gets into all sorts of fascinating details.

Like many other studies and findings, it shows correlation but not causation -- meaning, you might have done better in school and in life, thanks to “Sesame Street,” but it’s not 100% because of the show.

Early childhood education: Then and now


About the Author: