While one has undoubtedly heard or seen such statistics before, they aren't always at hand when you need them. Released by the Public Information Office of the US Census Bureau, The Big Payoff is a readily absorbed reference item for anyone looking to quantify and/or justify academic achievement. Drawing on statistics taken from the 2000 census, the brief clearly demonstrates the direct correlation between educational achievement and earning potential. High school dropouts and graduates rest at the low end of an earnings continuum, with Bachelors and Masters degree holders figuring next with nearly twice the average lifetime earning potential. Interestingly, pursuit of a doctorate seems to pay off less than one might think, at least given the years of labor they require. Well beyond any other category, holders of advanced professional degrees (e.g., JD, MD and MBA) make out the best, topping out the list of bread winners.