The study, released Thursday, looked at earnings over a 40-year career and found education had a greater impact than other factors including gender, race, citizenship, English-speaking ability and geographic location.
Those with a professional degree could expect median annual earnings of about $72,000, compared with $13,000 for those with an eighth-grade education, the study said.
"This analysis shows that there is a clear and well-defined relationship between education and earnings," Tiffany Julian, an analyst in the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, said in a news release.
Among other findings, based on median annual earnings estimates:
-- White males had higher earnings than any other group at every education level except master's degree, for which Asian males had the highest.
-- A white female with a master's degree is expected to earn $2.4 million over a 40-year work life, compared with $2.8 million for a Hispanic male with a master's.
-- Asian men and women with a bachelor's degree reaped greater returns from their education than blacks or Hispanics of either gender.