How Property Taxes Doomed Compton: A Tale of Urban Decline

Compton: A Tale of Urban Decline

Compton, California, is a city that has become synonymous with gangsta rap and gangs. But how did this small bedroom community come to have such a reputation? As it turns out, municipal tax policy played a significant role in Compton’s decline.

A Brief History of Compton

Compton was founded in 1869 by a group of former slaves from Mississippi. The city grew rapidly in the early 20th century, thanks in part to its proximity to Los Angeles. Compton became a popular destination for African Americans looking to escape the discrimination and segregation of the South. By the 1960s, Compton was a thriving community with a strong middle class.

The Decline of Compton

The decline of Compton began in the 1970s. A number of factors contributed to the city’s downfall, including the rise of crack cocaine, the decline of the manufacturing sector, and the increasing cost of housing. But one of the most significant factors was a change in municipal tax policy.

The Role of Municipal Tax Policy

In the 1970s, Compton’s city council decided to raise property taxes in order to fund new social programs. This decision had a devastating impact on the city’s economy. Many businesses were forced to close their doors, and many residents were forced to move away. The city’s population declined by more than half between 1970 and 1990.

The Rise of Gangs

The decline of Compton created a vacuum that was filled by gangs. Gangs provided young people with a sense of community and belonging. They also provided a way for young people to make money. By the 1980s, Compton was one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.

The Present Day

Compton is still a struggling city, but there are signs of hope. The city has invested in new schools and community centers. The crime rate has declined in recent years. And there is a growing movement of young people who are working to rebuild their city.


The story of Compton is a cautionary tale about the dangers of bad public policy. When governments make decisions that have a negative impact on the economy, the consequences can be devastating. Compton is a city that was once thriving, but it is now a shell of its former self. The city’s decline is a reminder that we must be careful about the decisions we make, because they can have a lasting impact on our communities.