PEOPLE assume that to live in Australia, you're guaranteed a fair go.

But the widening of our "classless society" has never been more apparent and the indicators of whether Aussies are rich or poor are becoming increasingly more defined.

Speaking on ABC's Q & A on Monday night, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said one of the most shocking indicators of the rich and poor divide in Australia lies in our mouths.

"Inequality over the last generation has grown markedly. If you watch the Eurovision Song Contest, odds are you'll be watching a contestant from a country that is more equal than Australia. You see it in all kinds of dimensions," he said.

Mr Leigh, who previously worked as an economics professor at the Australian National University, said poor Aussies typically have seven less teeth than rich people.

Speaking about the indicators of whether you're rich or poor, Mr Leigh said it was peoples' smiles that hit him the most.

When Mr Leigh discussed the statistics in a recent social media video, a teenager got in touch.

"A 19-year-old contacted my office and said, 'Both my parents are missing a lot of their teeth. I'm working full-time and studying full-time and I can't afford to get my teeth fixed,'" he said.

In Australia, one in eight people can't afford dental treatment.

Mr Leigh said being able to afford dental treatment is a big indicator of class divide.
Mr Leigh said being able to afford dental treatment is a big indicator of class divide.

Statistics also show that people living in a household earning less than $20,000 are typically missing 10 teeth.

"We've got an Australia that has doubled the number of private planes and private helicopters. Porsche and Maserati sales are through the roof and in some streets the typical house sells for eight figures," Mr Leigh said.

"We have one in 20 Australians who can't afford Christmas presents for family and friends. One in eight who can't afford dental care. So that gap between battlers and billionaires is stretched," he added.

Monday night's episode of Q & A addressed the myth of Australia being a "classless society" whereby everyone living here is generally afforded the same opportunities.

Panellist and social researcher Rebecca Huntley said that even within the middle class, there are different ways of living and thinking - and we can sometimes distinguish those differences through how much kale a person eats.

Ms Huntley, an expert in social trends, said her team often looks at a person's "consumption of kale" as a way of defining whether they're part of the "conscientious consumption group" or "the assertive materialists".

"In fact, they can live in very similar suburbs and do reasonably similar jobs, but have different views about things like climate change and the consumption of kale and the consumption of the ABC," Ms Huntley said.

The difference between the two depends on how progressive someone's thoughts are.

Rebecca Huntley looks at social trends.
Rebecca Huntley looks at social trends.

Despite the indicators of whether someone is rich or poor, fellow panellist Jill Sheppard said it's important we avoid stereotypes of how people behave depending on their class.

The old idea of working, middle and upper class originated in Britain and, as Ms Sheppard said, it doesn't really fit our Australian society.

"One problem with that is when we ask people what class do you belong to everyone says they're working or middle class. Everyone thinks they are lower than they actually are. When we ask people objectively, what are the kinds of things you do, we see fascinating divides," the ANU lecturer said.

"You do see people who are - and I find it so easy to get stuck into these stereotypes because everyone says that you're talking about cashed-up bogans or poor people having champagne tastes on a beer diet. This kind of thing. It's easy to get roped up in these stereotypes because they do kind of exist. But there are so many different dimensions to class," she added.

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