Global efforts to avoid anthropogenic conversion of natural habitat rely heavily on the establishment of protected areas. Studies that evaluate the effectiveness of these areas with a focus on preserving the natural habitat define effectiveness as a measure of the influence of protected areas on total avoided conversion. Changes in the estimated effectiveness are related to local and regional differences, evaluation methods, restriction categories that include the protected areas, and other characteristics. The overall objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas to prevent the advance of the conversion of natural areas in the core region of the Brazil's Cerrado Biome, taking into account the influence of the restriction degree, governmental sphere, time since the establishment of the protected area units, and the size of the area on the performance of protected areas. The evaluation was conducted using matching methods and took into account the following two fundamental issues: control of statistical biases caused by the influence of covariates on the likelihood of anthropogenic conversion and the non-randomness of the allocation of protected areas throughout the territory (spatial correlation effect) and the control of statistical bias caused by the influence of auto-correlation and leakage effect. Using a sample design that is not based on ways to control these biases may result in outcomes that underestimate or overestimate the effectiveness of those units. The matching method accounted for a bias reduction in 94-99% of the estimation of the average effect of protected areas on anthropogenic conversion and allowed us to obtain results with a reduced influence of the auto-correlation and leakage effects. Most protected areas had a positive influence on the maintenance of natural habitats, although wide variation in this effectiveness was dependent on the type, restriction, governmental sphere, size and age group of the unit.