I like to believe that most people want the same things in life. They want to be happy, they want to be successful, and they want to be able to spend time with the people they love. Unfortunately, these common human desires are left unfulfilled by the destructive nature of poverty. This is bad for people, businesses, and the economy.

Now is a great time to ask yourself what your business is doing to change this destructive cycle. Our middle class has seemingly lost its vibrancy, and the poor are getting poorer. It remains clear that the poverty rate needs to be reduced drastically. Americans are facing unemployment, stagnant wages, and slowed economic growth. More than one in five children live in poverty and this threatens future generations of Americans who will be called upon to build and lead the United States.

If we can find a way to reconcile this frightening problem, we will all reap the economic and social benefits. The more money we collectively and individually have to spend, the more we can buy. This increases the demand for skilled and educated individuals and increases job opportunities. Spending creates demand, demand creates work, and work creates income. It is an economic feedback loop and it works in both directions.

There is a danger in believing that it is merely someone else’s problem, because the effects of poverty extend much further. The effects of poverty are far reaching and devastating for individuals as well as families. This naturally extends to businesses.

Poverty and economic development are intrinsically tied together. We cannot have a vibrant and stable economy when 49 million Americans remain in poverty. Too many families are unable to afford a visit to the doctor’s office due to inadequate coverage, and are unable to afford higher education because it’s simply out of reach. Our futures, and the futures of our children are being compromised. Poverty inherently restricts the ability to engage in the work and spending that drives the economy forward. Poverty results in poor educational outcomes, and it limits the pool of qualified people to fill job openings.

It isn’t just a problem for the United States. Worldwide, 300 million workers make less than $1.25 per day. The United Nations is front and center in a public health initiative to combat worldwide poverty by setting sustainable goals, including actions toward preventative, curative, palliative, and rehabilitative healthcare. Child poverty alone costs more than $500 billion annually because of lost productivity, increased crime rates, and skyrocketing health expenditures. Adequate healthcare is an important hot-button issue for prospective job-seekers everywhere.

No one can seem to agree on why we are in this poverty trap. Eduardo Porter from The New York Times addresses and attempts to explain the issue.

He writes, To the left, deprivation is caused mostly by factors beyond the control of the poor. These include globalization that undercut good jobs previously within the reach of the less educated, an educational system segregated by race and class, lack of parental resources, discrimination, excessive use of prison.”

Mr. Porter continues by adding that, “Experts on the right, by contrast, put a lot of the weight on personal responsibility, often faulting the bad choices of the poor. And government support, by providing the poor with an income with few strings attached, has made their choices worse.”

Rhetoric alone will not solve the complex problem of poverty. At a time when the richest 62 individuals hold as much wealth as the poorest half of the world, what we need is to close the gap. We need positive business changes, equitable wages, and economic growth. Will your business be part of that positive change?