Investing is a long-term activity, and your biggest returns on a stock purchase can accrue years or even decades after your make it. Income investors have an extra reason to be patient with their holdings since reinvested dividends can amplify their overall returns.

But the trick is finding dividend stocks that can thrive through the inevitable industry down cycles and recessions that will strike during a 30- or 40-year investing time frame. In my view, Costco (COST 0.10%), Hasbro (HAS 1.23%), and Lowe's (LOW 3.37%) are attractive options that meet that criterion.

A shopper pushes a cart down an aisle between warehouse shelves of a warehouse shopping club store

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Costco

As the world's third-largest retailer (behind Walmart and Amazon), Costco's dominant industry position gives it a lot of staying power. The warehouse giant's focus on consumer staples, meanwhile, has allowed it to grow through recessions even as it profits during boom times from sales of things like consumer electronics and home furnishings. Its overall revenue rose at a double-digit percentage rate in the U.S. in mid-2021 following huge spikes a year prior.

The chain also gets most of its earnings from membership fees rather than merchandise mark-ups, which makes its profits less susceptible to the swings that other retailers experience with shifting consumer demand.

And while the stock's dividend yield of 0.7% at current share prices may look tiny compared to industry peers like Walmart, which today yields 1.6%, Costco has made a habit of periodically returning excess cash to shareholders through large special dividends. Look for this retailing titan to dole out much more cash over the next few decades.

2. Hasbro

Parts of Hasbro's business were hobbled earlier during the pandemic as its TV and movie segment paused production for several months. But by mid-2021, its operating trends reflected its enduring presence in the world of play.

Sales in Q2 jumped 54% year over year (and were up 9% compared to the 2019 period) thanks to contributions from core Hasbro franchises like My Little Pony and Transformers, and as well as partnership brands such as Disney's Princess and Star Wars lines. "The Hasbro team is performing at a high level," CEO Brian Goldner told investors in late July.

That performance extends to its finances, with strong cash flow supporting extra savings, debt repayment, and direct returns to shareholders. Its success makes it likely the company will soon resume making the robust annual dividend increases it paused during its sharp operating pullback in 2020. But with its yield at 2.7%, Hasbro already sports a significantly better yield than the broad market average.

3. Lowe's

Income investors have good reasons to favor Dividend Aristocrats. A track record of at least 25 consecutive annual payout hikes tells you a lot about a company's ability to endure recessions, after all.

Lowe's is one of just a handful of retailers in this exclusive club, having outlasted rival Home Depot by maintaining its streak of dividend increases during the Great Recession in 2007-09. But there are other good reasons to like this stock.

Lowe's has been closing its performance gap with Home Depot lately thanks to major upgrades to its omnichannel selling platform and a renewed focus on the professional contractor niche. The home improvement giant is raising its profit margins, too. And this year, management dedicated some of the resultant cash to an eye-popping 33% hike to the dividend payout.

The size of future boosts will surely depend somewhat on conditions in the housing market. But this company is likely to continue hiking its payouts annually in almost every imaginable economic environment.