Peter Edward and Andy Sumner discuss the growth in global consumption since the end of the Cold War. They argue that the dominant and optimistic narrative on globalization is considerably more methodologically fragile than it at first seems. The fall in inequality is almost exclusively attributable to the effect that the rise of China has had on between-country inequality. Changes in global inequality across the rest of the world are much more modest. Edward and Sumner suggest therefore that the dominant or optimistic narrative, of falling poverty and an emerging ‘middle class’ largely free from the threat of poverty, disguises both considerable growth in the size of the ‘global precariat’ living in conditions that most in the developed world would consider to be well below ‘middle class’ and an erosion of the financial security of a significant proportion of those living at higher consumption levels.