Economic data has been mixed in recent weeks, which has led to an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. economy is in a recession. One side has the strong July jobs report to fall back on, while the other side can point to two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product growth. Ultimately, the official determination will be left to the National Bureau of Economic Research in the months to come.

Regardless of recession status, it would be wise to prepare for one. And there's arguably no better way to do so than by buying shares of Dividend Kings. Such companies possess established business models that have allowed rising dividends for at least 50 consecutive years. Here are three picks for income investors to consider adding to their portfolios.

A businessperson works on a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Altria Group

Altria Group's (MO 0.39%) 48.2% cigarette retail share makes it the most dominant player in the U.S. The company's crown jewel cigarette brand, Marlboro, accounted for 42.6% of the U.S. cigarette retail share through the first half of 2022.

Well-established cigarette brands are quite resilient, as many smokers keep up the habit even in more challenging economic times. Pricing increases more than offset volume declines, which is how Altria Group's revenue net of excise taxes through the first half of this year managed to edge a fraction of a percent higher to $10.19 billion.

While the company may be best known for cigarettes, it also produces several oral tobacco products and has ownership stakes in Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Juul Labs, among other companies. Those strategic product areas and investments should pave the way for modest growth moving forward, which is why Wall Street analysts are expecting 4.3% annual earnings growth from the company through the next five years.

And Altria Group's whopping 7.9% dividend yield doesn't appear to be a yield trap because its dividend payout ratio clocks in a bit below its targeted 80% payout ratio. This allows the company to retain enough capital to pay down debt, repurchase shares, and complete acquisitions.

Altria Group is valued at a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 9.4. For context, this is much lower than the tobacco industry's average forward P/E ratio of 12.9.

2. AbbVie

Few items are as important to sustaining life than prescription medications, which is what makes AbbVie (ABBV 0.63%) about as recession-proof as a Dividend King could possibly be. The company's portfolio includes 10 drugs that are on track to record at least $1 billion in sales in 2022. This includes the mega-blockbuster Humira, which is set to generate $20 billion in sales this year.

Even though Humira's sales will drop quickly after its patent expires in 2023, AbbVie is well-prepared. In recent months, AbbVie has secured major regulatory approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Skyrizi and Rinvoq. In total, the company has approximately five dozen compounds in different stages of clinical development in its pipeline. 

AbbVie's market-beating 4% dividend yield also looks to be safe. Along with the robust drug pipeline to support future revenue and earnings, the company's dividend payout ratio is positioned to be a manageable 40.7% in 2022. 

And at a forward P/E ratio of 10.2, AbbVie is discounted compared to the pharmaceutical industry's average forward P/E ratio of 13.4. This creates an adequate margin of safety for investors while they wait for the company to execute on its plan to move beyond Humira.

3. Genuine Parts

Inflation is eating away at discretionary income, and semiconductor chip shortages are contributing to disruptions in new car production. This means that most people will have to continue driving their used vehicles for the foreseeable future, which is good news for the automotive and industrial replacement parts retailer Genuine Parts (GPC 12.82%).

That's why analysts are expecting nearly 5% annual earnings growth from the company over the next five years. And with the dividend payout ratio poised to be 44.9% in 2022, there should be plenty of room for future dividend growth. 

The only real downside to Genuine Parts at this time is its valuation. The stock's 2.3% dividend yield is significantly lower than its 10-year median of 2.8%. I'd personally be more interested in Genuine Parts if it was closer to that 2.8% yield, which would require the share price to dip from $160 to around $130.