Our current knowledge of carbon stars in the Local Group and beyond, is discussed. Although many carbon stars and late M-stars have been identified in external galaxies, a coherent understanding in terms of the chemical evolution- and star-formation-rate history of a galaxy is still largely lacking. Issues that need to be addressed are: 1) for some of the larger galaxies only a small fraction in area has been surveyed so far, 2) surveys have been conducted using different techniques, and may be incomplete in bolometric magnitude, 3) only for some galaxies is there information about the late M-star population, 4) not all galaxies in the Local Group have been surveyed, 5) only for a sub-set of stars are bolometric magnitudes available.
From the existing observations one can derive the following: the formation of carbon stars is both a function of metallicity and star formation. In galaxies with a similar star-formation-rate history, there will be relatively more carbon stars formed in the system with the lower metallicity. On the other hand, the scarcity of AGB-type carbon stars in some systems with the lowest metallicity indicates that these galaxies have had a low, if any, star-formation-rate history over the last few Gyrs.