BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- With market volatility swinging higher this week, it pays to get some protection for your portfolio -- literally.I'm talking about dividends, the cash payouts that many firms make to shareholders on a quarterly basis. If you've been ignoring dividends for your portfolio, you shouldn't. With corporate cash and investor anxiety both at all time highs, it makes sense to add some income to your portfolio; not only are dividend-payers typically more defensive stocks, their payouts reduce the overall volatility of your holdings. Today, we'll take a look at firms that have been ratcheting their payouts higher. >>5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar The trickle of dividend-payers is continuing in December. All told, 17 stocks with a market cap of over $1 billion announced dividend increases in the last week. That's the same number of stocks as we saw in the previous week -- a good sign that dividend hikes aren't completely dropping off. Historically, dividend stocks have been a good bet. Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks have outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to data compiled by Ned Davis Research. The numbers are even more compelling when looking at companies that consistently increase their payouts. That's why we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders each week. With that, here's a look at seven of the stocks that hiked payouts in the last week.