Protected areas are cornerstones for biodiversity conservation, yet they can be controversial because of their potential impact on the livelihoods of local people due to restrictions on agricultural land use and the extractive use of natural resources. This study evaluates the impact of PAs on households’ livelihoods, as measured by total household income (THI) and livestock income (LI). We use a survey and a quasi-experimental design to gather socioeconomic and biophysical data from households living within, adjacent to and outside three national parks (NPs) in Ethiopia and employ matching methods to isolate the impact of NPs. Our findings suggest that there is no evidence that the establishment of NPs adversely affects local livelihoods. Instead, we find that households within and in adjacent areas to NPs have higher incomes compared to those living outside. Understanding the heterogeneity of the effect of NPs on local livelihoods can help in designing well-targeted policy interventions that improve conservation goals while also addressing livelihood concerns of resource-dependent local communities.