Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Early Childhood Education By MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:30 PM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Melissa Kearney, University of Maryland and Phillip Levine, Wellesley College
The widely viewed children’s television program Sesame Street was introduced in November 1969 as an educational, early childhood program with the explicit goal of preparing preschool age children for school entry and beyond. Early studies found sizable short-term effects on cognitive test scores that are comparable in magnitude to the documented effects of participation in other early childhood education programs. In this project, we provide additional evidence of the effects of early childhood exposure to Sesame Street programming on later outcomes. We exploit county-level variation in TV viewers' ability to watch the show when it was first introduced, primarily generated by limited reception for those living in areas where Sesame Street was broadcast over UHF channels. We use Census data to explore how this variation relates to outcomes including grade-for-age status in 1980, educational attainment in 1990, and labor market outcomes in 2000. Our empirical approach distinguishes individuals by birth cohort and geography to capture differences in potential exposure. The results of our analysis indicate that children with greater access to the programming content during their early childhood years experienced improvements in early educational outcomes; that data do not offer strong evidence of persistent relative increases in ultimate educational attainment or labor market outcomes.