Fewer than one in five Americans feel like they're living the American Dream, according to Hearth Insights' 2017 State of the American Dream report, which surveyed 2,000 people.
That dream is "a complex concept that involves a variety of factors," Anthony Ghosn, Hearth's chief executive officer, tells CNBC Make It, but says homeownership is the "most important element." Hearth helps Americans finance renovations.
"Millennials faced one of the worst recessions in American history, which made it tough to find jobs, especially as older generations delayed retirement," he says. "They also have to deal with soaring student loan debt and stagnant wages.
"On the housing price side," he says, "factors like development restrictions increase demand for the existing housing stock, which increases the [overall] price. All of these factors combine to make a down payment on a home unaffordable for many millennials."
Still, according to the survey, owning a home remains a vital goal. Two-thirds of millennial renters view homeownership as important to the American Dream. Millennials are 29 percent more likely than baby boomers to see a home as an achievement that reflects hard work.