When the going gets rough, the 1 percent start selling.

That’s the finding of a new paper that says people with the highest income bailed from stocks disproportionately on the worst days of the financial crisis. The share of selling by the biggest earners rose “sharply” in days following spikes in volatility, according to data on millions of sales reported to the government in 2008 and 2009.

Mapping selling patterns in periods of tumult is of interest to researchers trying to get at the psychological underpinnings of events such as the financial crisis, when more than $10 trillion was erased from U.S. share values. Their main conclusion, that different people react with varying urgency to signs of trouble, could help identify behavioral biases that feed market meltdowns.

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