Thank you, Mr. Cookie Monster.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
March 20, 2019
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

You know having your youngster tune into Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and the crew lifts their spirits. As it may have done for yours, too.

But did you know watching Sesame Street as a kid may also enhance your noggin? A paper published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics titled "Early Childhood Education by Television: Lessons from Sesame Street" argues just that. According to researchers Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine, having access to the iconic childhood show before age seven positively impacted elementary school performance — and even long-term outcomes in education and the workforce.

Using data pulled from the US census in 1980, 1990, and 2000, the research team looked at access to viewing Sesame Street compared with educational and employment outcomes. "Sesame Street is another possible example of television that may provide social benefits in the form of improved educational performance, particularly for disadvantaged children," the authors state, citing 16 and Pregnant as an example of a TV show that also exerted noteworthy influence, in that case by reducing the incidence of teen pregnancy.

The beloved show first aired in 1969 and has been well-received in households across the country ever since. "Well-conducted randomized control trials at the time Sesame Street was initially introduced provided evidence that watching the show generated an immediate and sizable increase in test scores," the authors say in the conclusion. "Building on this existing body of early, targeted evidence, our large-scale analysis finds positive impacts on the educational performance of the generation of children who experienced their preschool years when Sesame Street was introduced in areas with greater broadcast coverage."

Interestingly, these kids did better in terms of their school grade placement by age. "This outcome largely represents improvements in academic progress in elementary school, when students at that time were more likely to fall behind their appropriate grade level," the authors note.

You can read the full paper here. Our key takeaway? Forget your child's iPad and fancy brain games — turn on the tube and let them watch Sesame Street.


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