In this paper, we investigate investment flows into mutual funds that hold more high corporate social responsible stocks (top CSR funds) vs. mutual funds that hold more low corporate social responsible stocks (bottom CSR funds). Using a large sample of equity mutual funds spanning 2003–2012, we find that top CSR funds on average receive about 5% less investment per annum compared to the other funds; whereas bottom CSR funds receive about 5.6% more investments. These relative negative and positive flows into the top and bottom CSR funds respectively were larger during the pre-financial crisis period (2003–2007). This trend, however, reversed during the financial crisis (2008–2009). Top CSR funds attracted about 8.7% more investments during the financial crisis compared to the pre-crisis period; whereas bottom CSR funds received about 9.8% less investment. This higher investment into the top CSR funds during the crisis seems to have disappeared during the post-crisis period (2009–2012). Additional analysis shows that the corporate social ratings of top CSR funds improved through the crisis, whereas it deteriorated for the bottom CSR funds. Our findings are consistent with the “flight to quality” phenomenon observed in financial markets during market crises, indicating that investors perceive top CSR fund investments as relatively safe or of higher quality and hence, invest more in them during financial crises.
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