The expansion of protected areas (PAs) is feared to negatively affect the local economy, as every PA, albeit to different degrees, entails restriction to the economic activities. The literature on the topic has started assessing what is the socioeconomic impact of PAs, mostly focusing on the Global South. The objective of this article is the analysis of the socioeconomic impact of three Italian national parks (NPs), established in the 2000s, using a counterfactual approach based on both the outcome regression diff-in-diff and the doubly robust diff-in-diff combined with different propensity score-based and Mahalanobis distance matching procedures. We find that the three Italian NPs have a robust and statistically significant impact on average income of residents in municipalities hosting them. Conversely, there is weak evidence that population and local establishments are positively affected, and touristic local establishments and employment are negatively affected by the three NPs. All together the results indicate that the three NPs have no negative effect on the socioeconomic dynamics of the territories impacted, although additional investigations are required to shed lights to the impact mechanisms.
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