Department or Program



In 1994 Bolivia passed one of the most comprehensive political decentralization reforms in Latin America. It broke down a unitary government into 314 semi-autonomous municipalities. In the wake of this change, indigenous populations increased their political engagement. Did the 1994 decentralization reform affect ethno-political mobilization in Bolivia? Some political decentralization theorists argue that high levels of political decentralization create or increase ethnic political mobilization, while others argue that political decentralization reform decreases ethnic political mobilization. In this paper, I add to the conversation by exploring the effects of decentralization reform on ethno-political mobilization at the local level. I argue that, at the local level, decentralization triggered ethno-political mobilization by lowering barriers to participation and by giving local governments control of resources. Additionally, the level of pre-existing social organization has positive effects on the ability of indigenous groups to politically mobilize after decentralization occurred. To support my argument, I use a sequential exploratory research design. I test my argument through qualitative fieldwork including semi-structured interviews with academics and government officials in Bolivia and quantitative regression analysis to test for the impact of pre-existing levels of organization and rurality on ethno-political mobilization. Overall, I find evidence that decentralization incentivizes ethno-political mobilization, but that the outcome is participation in the formal political arena only when there are strong levels of pre-existing social organization.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Longaker, Jacob

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.