This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most optimistic and daring shows in television history.
Sesame Street is beloved by generations of viewers, and its iconic characters like Big Bird and Elmo are recognized around the globe. But since its launch in November 1969, the show has always been about more than children’s entertainment. It was a bold experiment to help close the gap in early childhood education.
In the January issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, researchers Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine dig into decades of Census and broadcast data to determine whether the show actually lived up to its high-minded goals. Kearney said, by many measures, it actually worked.
Kearney spoke about the phenomenon that Sesame Street became, how she and Levine studied its influence, whether it’s possible for a program today to have the same kind of impact, and her own memories of watching the show as a child.
An edited transcript of that conversation and audio of the extended interview can be found here.